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my career

Kandice Baptiste, Aboriginal Students Recruitment and Retention Officer at Wilfrid Laurier University.

What is your name and title? How long have you been in this role?

My name is Kandice Baptiste. For the past two years I've been an Aboriginal Students Recruitment and Retention Officer at Wilfrid Laurier University.

What exactly do you do?

My position has many elements to it; from program development for current to prospective students to travel, no one day is exactly the same. I travel across Ontario and Quebec to urban centres and reserves speaking to Aboriginal students about the benefits of post-secondary education and opportunities available to them.

This tour is called the Aboriginal Post-Secondary Information Program (APSIP) which is a collective of Aboriginal recruiters from Ontario and Quebec colleges and universities. I create outreach programming for Aboriginal youth and build relationships with Aboriginal communities. I facilitate admissions for Aboriginal students in partnership with Laurier's Recruitment and Admissions Office. I create retention programming for our current Aboriginal undergraduate students at Laurier as well. Outside of working directly with students I create presentations and workshops for departments on campus and off campus around Aboriginal awareness, history and other issues.

Describe what you do on any given day.

If I'm on the road during recruitment season I'll wake up, check out of the hotel I'm staying at and head to the first school visit of the day. Once I arrive at a high school or community centre I'll set up a booth of materials for a career fair. Usually with APSIP there are around 15 to 20 other colleges and universities that are present at the career fair. We give a brief introductory presentation to start the fair and let the students roam around. I'll talk to students who have questions about college or university and explain what Laurier offers. Usually our fairs last around an hour and a half then we're off to the next school. We get to about three or four schools in a day and drive to the next town at the end of the day.

If I'm on campus then my day usually starts with e-mails and meetings. However, I'll also attend on-campus events that are run by the Aboriginal Student Centres or the Aboriginal Students' Association, such as soup and frybread lunches, guest speakers or celebrations. I also work in partnership with many departments on campus so I meet and develop programming with them.

What's your background and education?

I graduated in 2011 with a Bachelor of Arts degree with a History major and a Psychology minor from Wilfrid Laurier University.

How did you get to your position?

When I was a student at Laurier there were no Aboriginal-specific support services for students or Aboriginal representation on campus so I figured I was the only Aboriginal student on campus. In my fifth year I got involved in student affairs at Laurier and created the Aboriginal Students' Association (ASA), which is a campus club aimed to bring Aboriginal students together in a fun and comfortable way. I was hired as the Aboriginal Student Intern at the same time, working with the Office of Aboriginal Initiatives at Laurier to create student support services and events.

A few weeks before I graduated this position was posted and once I interviewed I felt my strong extra-curricular experience at Laurier (as a varsity basketball player and founder of the ASA) with my passion for Aboriginal education and personal story really helped me land the job.

What's the best part of your job?

The best part of my job is that I get to help Aboriginal youth and students realize their educational goals. I can't think of prouder moments I've had than helping someone who is struggling to succeed do something they never thought they'd do. Whether that's graduate from university, speak out in class or take on a leadership role during cultural events. It's truly rewarding.

What's the worst part of your job?

As much as I love the travel, sometimes it gets tiring. For example, one day last year I drove 10 hours in one day on top of three school visits and fairs. Sleeping in different cities every night and eating out makes you really appreciate your own bed and home cooking after 10 weeks on the road!

What are your strengths in this role?

My strength is definitely my public speaking skills. Without those you could not do this role as you are constantly speaking in front of large and small groups. Knowing your audience and being able to engage with them is key. My ability to relate to Aboriginal youth and peoples through my personal story is crucial. Creating a safe space for Aboriginal youth to ask questions and engage with you, whether they are on campus or not is very important to this role.

What are your weaknesses?

I'm not an extrovert so being in front of people all the time can be exhausting for me. I also usually bite off more than I can chew, making myself a busy person throughout the school year.

What has been your best career move?

This is my first career so I'd say getting involved outside the classroom at university is what landed me this job so that's definitely my advice for students.

What has been your worst career move?

I haven't had any yet.

What's your next big job goal?

My next big job goal is to build Aboriginal recruitment enough to hire an additional recruiter or employee and become a co-ordinator. Beyond that I'd love to continue to work in Aboriginal education at the post-secondary level, one day becoming a manager or senior adviser. Overall, my goal is to help Aboriginal youth find their path to becoming a successful and culturally strong individual who will give back to their communities and nations.

What's your best advice to others who might want to follow in your footsteps?

Say yes to opportunities outside the classroom or your job. Volunteering with many different organizations and getting your feet wet, so to speak, will allow you to realize and build your skills while getting to know your interests.

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