Samantha Garcia

B. Sc. (Kin), CHF, CO-OP DESIGNATION, 2008

Current Position: Recreation Coordinator at SFU Rec in Burnaby, BC

What are your work responsibilities?

In my current job, I look after the fitness program, which includes the fitness centre and a variety of fitness programs such as group fitness, yoga, and pilates. I also have a large team of student leaders that I support, which totaled about 75 students. They help support the program by keeping it organized, and sometimes they teach the programs as well. We pride ourselves on our student employment.

The fitness centre that I am in charge of is also a part of the recreation department. We have a large role in the Terry Fox event, new student orientations, and summer camp among other projects. I also work with Aquatics Coordinator, the Intermural Sports Coordinator, and other departmental employees. It’s always busy and can be very demanding. There’s also facility management work, such as risk management, where we make sure we are covered so there are no liabilities, that emergency response plan is up to date and all those kind of things. It’s a role of many tasks!

How did you become interested in your field?

Co-op was the first place I got exposed to the field. In one of my co-op placements, I was a fitness instructor in a senior home. It was really cool! I also worked at a private gym called Fit City for Women, and then I worked at LifeMark Health in Langley, which is a rehabilitative centre. These co-op positions got me interested in my current field. Taking BPK 143 with Tony Leyland during my undergraduate degree also developed my interest in the field. It was a chance for me to expose myself to different types of fitness.

What led you to your current position?

After completing all of my co-op positions, I was working at SFU Rec as a weight room attendant and personal trainer part time. Towards the end of my degree I was in more of a leadership role at SFU Rec, and the previous Coordinator was retiring at the time, so I applied and I was very lucky to get the job! I have been here since; it’s been six years now. I love it.

What do you enjoy most about your current position?

Working with my student staff is the best part. I have students working both in administrative roles and in fitness instruction roles, and it’s really rewarding for me to support them not only in their professional development but also in their health and fitness knowledge.

What have been the biggest challenges in your current position?

My biggest challenge has been maintaining work-life balance. My job is a juggling act – on any given day I have a thousand people in the fitness centre with five or six classes running, and that’s just within my area. I also help with projects at the department level, so I think it’s a challenge to maintain my own balance. You could just work all the time and there’s still a lot to do, but you have to know where to stop and go home!

What were the keys to your success in overcoming these challenges?

I have a great support at home with my spouse, and I try to walk the talk, so to speak. I try to be a role model in getting exercises regularly, getting outside and that’s motivating for me to be more fit and active. Trying to make sure I get enough exercise is really important for my mental health, and it helps me de-stress. I am definitely a yes-person and that can lead to more work but it has afforded me with unique experiences, so I try not to turn down any opportunities. I try to always be positive and have an open mind. I also love working with people and at the end of the day it’s all about building relationships and I think that’s one of my strengths. I enjoy interacting with my student staff and programs’ participants.

Why did you choose Simon Fraser University and BPK to pursue your education?

SFU has a strong co-op program and it was close to my house at the time! I ended up getting a Co-op Designation during my degree, which led me to where I am right now.

What were the major challenges that you faced during your studies at SFU and BPK?

I didn’t get to BPK right away, and at the time I was admitted, SFU didn’t have direct admission. I was admitted into Science, and I had to do internal transfer based on all the science prerequisites, which was tough! I was also working a part-time job on my first semester and I struggled with school. It was very stressful but after that it was easier. I find that upper-division courses were easier for me, because I was more interested in them. I could see the application right away from those courses.

My biggest downfall in my undergraduate was working too much. In my first semester I was taking 14 credits and I was working 25 hours a week. No one told me that was a bad idea!

How did your education at SFU and BPK influence your career?

Mostly I draw on my degree when I’m working with my student staff, and that’s great. My co-op positions have also led me to the field I am currently working in, which I love!

What is your favorite memory from your time at the university and the department?

I really enjoyed working on campus, and I liked meeting people from other faculties and that’s where I really met people. I also enjoyed taking active study breaks. My friend and I would study in the library and we would run up and down the stairs to freshen up, or walk on the trail and talk about physio and exercises when studying for exams. I enjoyed mixing activities into my study. I studied really well that way too.

I also love going to fairs, like Information Evening, Academic Options Day, and Careers Day and recruiting students to the department. I love doing it and got to know Darleen Bemister, BPK Co-op Coordinator, through these events!

Who do you think make a difference at SFU or BPK, or who do you remember the most from the department?

Two people. Penny Deck, who was the undergraduate advisor when I was a student. She was really supportive and encouraging when I was having a hard time with my internal transfer. And Darleen Bemister from Co-op!

What do you consider to be your greatest accomplishments (both personally and professionally)?

Twofold, I guess. Completing my degree felt really good, so that’s up there. I also recently started my graduate studies in Health Sciences so that’s a really exciting project for me too.

What advice would you give to current students at BPK?

If you are planning to work, don’t work on your first semester. Get involved, and if you can live on campus, do it. And meet people from outside of your faculty or department. BPK is a great and supportive department with fantastic faculty and staff, but you get a more diverse perspective if you also hang out with students from other departments. Look for opportunities where you can mingle with other students, such as social clubs, student clubs, and so on. When you’re a student it can feel that you’re so into your studies and everything is science, but broadening your perspective is great, too. Also, do co-op or exchange abroad! I didn’t do it and I think it would have been a good experience.

What do you enjoy doing with your free time?

I love cooking, although not always successfully! I’m a vegetarian and my partner is not so I always try to find a meat version of something and a veggie version of something else. I love anything crafty or artistic, like scrapbooking or paper craft or giftwrapping.

I also like to read! After I was done with my undergraduate, I wanted to start reading again. I love non-fiction and leadership development books. I’m currently reading Good to Great by Jim Collins, and Fierce Conversations by Susan Scott.  

--

Read more about Samantha's co-op journey at SFU OLC, or check out her appreciation page at the SFU Alumni Appreciation Project.