Three Convocating Students Tell Us About Their CMNS Journey

May 30, 2023

"It’s your turn to choose and define what success means to you. Now, others will try to define it for you, but yours is the only voice that matters." —Octavia Spencer

On June 9, 2023, we celebrate another amazing group of graduating School of Communication students. We are so proud of you for successfully completing this stage of your academic journey, and we are excited to see where your next steps take you!   

We connected with three convocating students who made the most out of their time in the School of Communication.  

Erica Apacible

What was your most memorable moment at SFU?

During my co-op at SFU C&M, I had the privilege of supporting some of the behind-the-scenes work for convocation (it’s quite the production!). It had been such a busy day that I didn’t realize that one of my role models, Maria Ressa, was giving the honorary degree recipient address. Maria is someone I look up to—as a communicator, a Filipino, someone who wants to make positive change—and watching her be celebrated at the university felt like my worlds colliding. I sat in front of my monitor a little misty-eyed, a lot inspired, and oh-so excited to be wearing a cap and gown one day too. Look where we are now!

What did you learn about yourself during your university journey?

I’m a lot more independent than I thought I was. There was a time when going to networking events alone, exploring campus solo or enrolling in a class without familiar faces would be absolutely out of the question. Just thinking about it could put my stomach in knots. But university helped me realize that I’m more than capable of standing on my own two feet. It pushed me out of my comfort zone and strengthened my sense of self, and though there were definitely growing pains, I wouldn’t have it any other way.

What are your plans after graduation?

I’m hitting pause for a little while to recharge, and then I can’t wait to jump back into the industry! Wherever I land, I hope it’s somewhere I can make a meaningful impact. Being a communicator means that I get to leave school with a versatile toolbox, and I can’t help but smile thinking about what my next project will be.

You participated in a few co-op terms. How did those experiences shape your success today?

Oh gosh, I will probably never stop raving about the co-op program!

Putting your comms knowledge to the test in the real world is as exciting as it is nerve-wracking, but it’s worth the palpitations a hundredfold. Co-op has helped me develop a robust portfolio (from facilitating COVID-19 medical staff forums to supporting community activations for the proposed gondola), connected me with mentors and introduced avenues I want to explore as a professional. Graduation may mark the end of an era, but the learnings and relationships from co-op will undoubtedly carry over into my next chapter and beyond.

Shoutout to our co-op coordinators! What would we do—who would we be—without them?

What advice do you have for current undergrad students?

Stay curious! I think there’s this underlying pressure to carve out a plan and stick to a specific schedule to hit the finish line. But for me, the most eye-opening and rewarding experiences came from side-stepping from the map. Allow yourself to entertain the “what ifs.” What if I took this course…just because? What if I applied for that program? What if I said yes to more opportunities? Maybe you’ll stumble upon something special.

Mark Villar

What was your most memorable moment at SFU?

There’s so many to choose from. Doing a science experiment in front of 200 classmates, staying on campus until 2 AM to work on a group project, presenting at the UGC, and watching the sunrise over Burnaby Mountain the morning after my first year frosh are a few notable ones.

But if I had to pick the absolute most memorable moment (though definitely a weird one) it would be the time I watched FCAT faculty members hit a watermelon like a pinata at the 2022 FCAT summer social! It was the first social event FCAT hosted after the pandemic. It was a day filled with good food, fun activities and socializing with fellow students and faculty members. It was nice to finally see people in-person after so long, and the fun was capped off with some games - including watermelon pinata.

What did you learn about yourself during your university journey?

I learned that I can be a very open-minded and bold risk taker. I arrived at SFU with a plan and fixed timeline of things I wanted to do and accomplish. Starting off as a science major, I was dead set on graduating in 4-years and going straight to medical school. Although I was stubborn at first, over time I allowed myself to explore other potential career pathways and realized I shouldn’t limit myself to choices I made before I even arrived at university.

I switched majors several times, not knowing or even caring if things would work out, but did so with the hope that each time I would get closer to finding the right major. I did five co-op terms with the mindset that the short-term sacrifice of delaying graduation would only lead to long-term success, and now I know exactly what I want to do with my career. I wasn’t very social at first, but I put myself outside my comfort zone and joined several clubs where I’ve met some of the greatest, lifelong friends I’ll ever have.

I’m now a big believer in aiming high and taking risks - it seems to have always worked out for me!

What are your plans after graduation?

I’ll be taking a short, but well-deserved break. I’ve been in school longer than I expected, juggling my time between studies and work. While it was all worth it in the end, it’s refreshing to finally not have the weight of assignments, papers and exams on my mind.

After that, I plan to do some traveling! I’ve been arranging a solo backpack trip to Southeast Asia for quite some time, so I’d like to do that sooner than later. I plan to be out there for a few months before coming back to Vancouver to launch my career full-time.

I try not to make plans too far in advance - the best things about my undergrad were the unplanned surprises!

You participated in a few co-op terms. How did those experiences shape your success today?

I attribute all of my success to my co-op terms. I really wouldn’t be where I am today had I not been a part of the program. Each term built on the previous one, giving me a solid foundation to work with now that I’ve finished my degree and will be looking to start my career soon. I received valuable work expereince, picked up and developed core skills, and networked with dozens of world-class professionals who all gave me insightful advice on how to advance and have a successful, long-term career in communications. I’m beyond grateful to Simbi Foundation, LifeSciences BC and IBM Canada for giving me the opportunity to learn and thrive.

Something that has really stood out amongst all of my terms were the opportunities to engage in projects I would have never expected to participate in. From leading fundraisers and event promotion, to developing a website from scratch, to project managing a group of Software Developers and UX/UI Designers to design and deliver an app. Co-op has shown me that a career in communications isn’t limited to just copywriting, editing, and creating content for social media. It’s a versatile profession with skills that can be transferred and applied to any industry as shown throughout my five terms. The opportunities are endless if you keep an open-mind and stay curious!

I have a clear vision of where I want to take my career, and I owe that to my colleagues, managers, mentors and advisors I’ve had the privilege of working with throughout my time in the co-op program.

What advice do you have for current undergrad students?

Slow down! Seriously, don’t rush to finish your degree as soon as possible. Life after school will come, but you’ll never get your undergrad years back. Take advantage of the time you have now to try new things, take risks, and think about what you really want out of school, your career and life.

Another piece of advice I would offer is to network. It’s so important to build and make connections. Attending events, joining clubs and talking to classmates truly made my time at SFU worthwhile. I’ve met so many friends and colleagues who have opened doors for me simply by putting myself out there. You never know where and when you’re going to meet the right person!

Linda Kanyamuna

What was your most memorable moment at SFU?

My most memorable moments at SFU have been the days on campus where my friends would gather and just get work done together. Picking a spot on campus and grinding papers or studying for tests while simultaneously cracking up jokes and taking snack breaks. It’s the little things I guess— Like many students, I spent a chunk of my undergrad via remote learning, so those memories in and around campus will definitely stick with me.

What did you learn about yourself during your university journey?

What I’ve learned about myself throughout university is honestly the art of patience. University can easily be perceived as an experience that requires alot of you: your time, energy, focus, presence, effort. All of these elements vital to any student can sometimes feel overwhelming.The more I practiced this balance of patience with myself in an environment filled with deadlines and expectations, I was able to digest the bigger picture. We’re not in school forever, so day by day, class by class, semester by semester felt fulfilling knowing that I could architect my experience based on perspective. There’s no singular way to go about it, and that’s what makes it an art. Now that I’m graduating the title of being a “student” feels like a synonym for all of the possibilities of becoming. There’s so much honour in self-growth, and pride in being a learner of life.

What are your plans after graduation?

My plans after graduation are to continue taking each opportunity that comes and reimagine it to align with my goals; taking the wheel if you will. I’ve been thinking a lot about how my younger self would have wanted to be exactly where I am today.  Somehow I’m here and I plan to keep wanting more for myself. Currently I work at a large fashion house, where I have one of the coolest roles I could imagine. I want to excel in this position and see where it takes me. I plan to relaunch my podcast and expand into different audiences. Continue to network within my respective interests, and eventually pursue my entrepreneurial ambitions. Ultimately, I want to tell stories through various creative mediums.

You did a lot of extracurricular activities during your degree! How have they shaped your success?

I guess you could say I’ve dabbled in an extra curricular or two… or seven. I didn’t plan on being this engaged at school, but when covid started in my 2nd year I suddenly had this urge to maximize my university experience. CMNSU, SOCA, Surge SFU, WiE (Women in Engineering) are a few groups I contributed to. So yes! These spaces have been absolutely incremental to my success in my academic endeavours, and even for my career journey. I’ve met so many like minded people, and from there I’ve cultivated a passion for community and storytelling. The SFU Co-op program was so valuable; I was able to explore roles within marketing, PR and project management. Every experience revealed a new strong suit and provided me with a better post-grad plan.

What advice do you have for current undergrad students?

My advice for current undergrad students is to document your goals and dreams. Not necessarily specific ones, not necessarily a game-plan, but just make sure they are big, outrageous and beyond your scope of understanding. Document where you are and what you want for yourself. On paper, video, any medium of your choice. Update it, or never update it, create your guideline and follow up with yourself. You’ll sense the moments when you need to reflect on it, and hopefully it’ll recenter you on your path.  Find your rhythm and keep dancing to it.

Congratulations to all our graduating CMNS students! We wish you all the best in your future endevours!