Diploma by distance enables new perspective

Human and Social Development

- Kate Hildebrandt

Sabrina Curtis, Graduate Diploma in Evaluation from the School of Public Administration.

Sabrina Curtis of Golden, BC sees herself as someone who thrives on seeking out the next challenge.

“I’m happy with life,” says the mother of two, who just completed an online Graduate Diploma in Evaluation through the School of Public Administration. “I’m just always looking for ways to add interest and understanding, to look at things through new contexts.”

It’s a fitting trait for Curtis, as the director of planning and evaluation for the Columbia Basin Trust. Curtis is applying her learning directly to her complex work of measuring the performance of many diverse community programs and strategic initiatives supported by the trust.

“I feel like this program was made for me,” says Curtis. “It offered me a new perspective on organizational challenges which we have been struggling with for a long time.” The subject matter led to her learning new ways to improve several processes. That practical application, she says, continues to translate as accomplishments at the office.

“It was rewarding,” says Curtis. “I now have a more elaborate toolkit to access in managing our program evaluations and reports to communities and clients on our progress.”

Those ‘clients’ are the 150,000 people situated across 80,000 sq. km (about 13,000 sq. miles) within the Columbia River basin in southeastern BC. The Columbia River is essential to every aspect of life, and the trust was created to support the ideas and efforts of the people in this region.

“It’s very satisfying work,” Curtis explains. “There is so much opportunity to do good things, which can be both a blessing and a curse.”

Case in point: coordinating a region-wide symposium in 2017—SHIFT! Thriving in Change—Curtis and her team attracted a whopping 450 delegates with astronaut Chris Hadfield as guest speaker. He also live-streamed a presentation to school children from across the basin’s communities.

“Hadfield launched us into a new world of learning about how to lead change,” said Curtis. His talk inspired the trust and its communities to embrace new thinking around the shifting demographics of their region, rapidly evolving technology and the impact of global weather change.

“The whole event inspired so many residents, students, teachers, and even our own selves,” says Curtis. “Coordinating it was an audacious task, and a bit scary, but with amazing results.”

That’s not unlike coordinating an online Evaluation Diploma program with a young family and a challenging full-time job, she confides.

“This program was quite hard and yet distance learning was the perfect fit for me because I could maintain my work and parenting role.” Scheduling became a high artform as she began her day at 5 a.m. to allow for quiet reading and writing time before her family woke up. Their support, and living five blocks from work, says Curtis, were godsends.

Perpetually curious, Curtis says all that learning was worth the challenges. Professor Jim McDavid concurs. “In addition to earning top marks in all of her courses, she is the only person in the program’s seven years of operation to go on to complete the Diploma Evaluation Project in one semester.”

“This,” McDavid added, “is a remarkable accomplishment.”


In this story

Keywords: convocation, student life, alumni, community, public administration

People: Josie Greenhill

Publication: The Ring

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