Why did you choose to pathway into Seneca’s Honours Bachelor of Therapeutic Recreation degree program after completing your recreation therapy diploma at Canadore College?

I chose to study at Seneca because they had one of the only well-developed Therapeutic Recreation degree programs. I liked that I would be able to commute to the campus, and after meeting some of the professors for the Therapeutic Recreation degree program at the Seneca Open House, I knew that was where I wanted to go. 

How would you describe your experience at Seneca? 

My experience at Seneca was life changing. It helped me to find confidence in myself. I was worried that I was not made for degree level education, but Seneca showed me that I was more than capable. The professors were all extremely knowledgeable in their material. The majority of my professors had PhDs and it showed through their lessons. I liked that my professors knew me by name and always encouraged me to be the best I could be. 

What influenced you to pursue the field of therapeutic recreation?

I knew from a young age that I wanted to support people of all abilities. I was always the kid who wanted everything to be fair and believed that everyone could do anything they put their mind to. I became fascinated with adapting programs to support others, and I find even to this day I am figuring out ways to include all people.

I remember vividly the way I chose the field of recreation therapy and it was not in the way most people would select it. I was 16 and I had to start thinking about postsecondary education and my mom started Googling different programs. She came across recreation therapy and thought it was a perfect fit. She showed it to me and when I read about it, I remember thinking that this was something I could see myself doing.

I applied and was accepted to Canadore College in North Bay for the recreation therapy diploma. That was when I fell in love with the field. Once I completed my diploma, I worked in the field for a year and realized there was still so much information that I needed to learn and understand. That was when I decided to continue my education and obtain my degree in therapeutic recreation.

What influenced your decision to continue your education after completing your degree?

I was corresponding with the program co-ordinator as I had previous education in recreation therapy, so I wanted to see how I would fit into the Seneca program. During the Open House, I met a few professors as well as the program co-ordinator. She greeted me with delight and her first question was, “Where are you going to pursue your masters after this course?”

At that time, I had not even thought about pursuing more education after my degree, especially when I was still trying to get accepted to Seneca. However, she planted the seed and when it came to my final year at Seneca, I knew that I wanted to pursue my masters. Pursing a masters was years in the making, and all my professors encouraged me to continue my education. 

How did your Seneca program prepare you for your master’s program? 

Seneca prepared me for my master’s program in a few different ways. I learned self-discipline to ensure all projects (especially major ones) were completed on time. With this being said, my research course at Seneca had a major assignment of a research paper. We had to have different tasks completed by certain dates throughout the course. Since my masters is fully online, it was beneficial to be taught good time management skills and self-discipline. This allowed me to be held accountable to complete weekly/monthly tasks in my master’s courses.

My professors at Seneca helped me to become an excellent writer. There were ample opportunities to write papers throughout the program and I was given excellent feedback to help me become a better writer. My master’s program is all about assignments that are papers, so having that ability has helped me maintain good grades in the program.

Finally, Seneca provided me with a lot of working knowledge in the therapeutic recreation field, which helped me to bring the therapeutic recreation perspective to my master’s program. It helped me to be able to provide accurate knowledge in discussions and in my assignments. My master’s professors have shared their interest and excitement in the therapeutic recreation field and are happy that I incorporate this into my learning.

From experience, do you think there is value in having a diploma, degree and masters? 

There is so much value in having a diploma, degree and masters. My diploma provided me with the working knowledge and hands-on experience that you do not receive in a degree or master’s program. It taught me skills that I will have for the rest of my life, personally and professionally. My degree expanded my knowledge more on the topic of therapeutic recreation. My master’s program has helped me to grow more professionally and added specialized knowledge that I am not able to receive elsewhere.

Overall, moving from diploma to degree to masters was the best transition for me because it provided me the opportunity to develop my knowledge in the field while obtaining working experience in the field. After my diploma, I was able to gain experience with a variety of populations. It has made me ready for my career with a master level education and six years of combined diploma and degree level experience. 

How was the master’s application and process different than your application to Seneca?

For Seneca, I was a transfer student, so I had to provide them with my college transcript, and I applied through Ontario Colleges. As for my masters, I had to be a graduate from a four-year health related program with a minimum B+. There was an online application I had to fill out through a McMaster portal and had to pay a fee of $110. I had to provide my official transcripts from both my educational institutions (they had to be mailed to McMaster from my previous schools). I had to provide two academic references (they had to be professors) and I asked two professors from Seneca as I valued their opinion. Also, I had to write an essay that outlined my clinical interests and experience, my learning expectations and goals, and why I was the right candidate for the master’s program. 

Any words of advice to students who are currently in the program you graduated out of Seneca, and are considering pursing further education?

The best advice I feel I can give is to not give up on your dreams. It may not be easy, but it will be worth it. My education journey has been anything but traditional. I have bounced around and I never thought that I would make it to a master’s program, but I never gave up. I kept pushing through all the difficult times and kept trying my best. Make sure to seek help or guidance when you need it and just always keep putting one foot in front of the other.

What are you up to now? 

I am currently heading into my final semester of my master’s program. I am obtaining my master of science in rehabilitation science. Also, I am working part time as a Rehabilitation Worker for March of Dimes Canada and working as a coach teaching physical literacy skills to children aged two to five for Warrior Athletes. I achieved my position as a coach by recommendation from one of my professors at Seneca. Also, I recently was successful in my application for Registration with Therapeutic Recreation Ontario (R/TRO).

What are your plans for the future — short-term and long-term?

As mentioned before, I recently completed one of my short-term goals of obtaining my R/TRO and now plan to branch out to acquire my Certified Therapeutic Recreation Specialist (CTRS) credential. Another short-term goal is to complete my master’s program by the end of the year.

As for long-term goals, I plan to move to either Toronto, Alberta or British Columbia to work as a research assistant or a recreation therapist in a hospital setting, eventually transitioning to become a professor for a recreation therapy program somewhere.