Alumni, Psychology

Alumni Profile: Kathleen Stephany, Psychology

October 11, 2016

When Kathleen Stephany came to SFU in the late 90s to begin her BA in Psychology she was already a registered nurse with over twenty years of experience. Stephany began her post-secondary degree to prepare for her life-long dream of becoming a psychologist, needing a strong foundation in Psychology and competitive grades to get into graduate school. After attaining both her Psychology BA and her MA in Counseling Psychology at SFU, Stephany went on to earn her PhD in Counseling Psychology at Breyer State University and today she is a nurse ethicist, care theorist, as well as a motivational and inspirational speaker.

Before and during her time at SFU, Stephany was an emergency room and intensive care unit nurse and went on to manage a medical unit in the Langley Memorial Hospital. She also worked as a medical investigator for the Office of the Chief Coroner in BC throughout her post-secondary studies. She says though it was a busy time, working as a nurse while studying a new field gave her several advantages including excellent organizational skills, the ability to prioritize competing responsibilities, and social skills. She also notes that she had a “strong foundational knowledge of anatomy and physiology, the functioning of the human body and brain” and that all these areas helped her branch out and be a “better student in a brand new field.”

While a student, Stephany was also parenting four children and says maintaining work and life balance while working long hours, raising children, and successfully completing her degrees was challenging. “Creating balance between all of the areas of my life was not easy. When I started at SFU I still had three of my four children living at home. Only one of them was at college. I was working as a medical investigator for the Office of The Chief Coroner and I worked a lot of weekends.  Yet, I also ensured that I had a block of study time each evening just for school.” Stephany recalls never really having a day off while striving to complete her degrees and she says the support of her husband and family was crucial to her successes. And, she notes, her children had something to gain by watching her dedicate herself to her studies. “My family and husband were really supportive but I know it was not always easy on them. But I think I was a good role model for my children. They learned that if you want something bad enough you often have to work hard and make sacrifices to reach your goals and dreams.”

Since completing her graduate degrees, Stephany has gone on to the Faculty of Health Sciences at Douglas College where she’s been teaching courses on nursing ethics and leadership, and mental health and addictions for over ten years. She says post-secondary teaching was a profession she felt well-prepared to take on given that she was a faculty trainer for the BC Coroners Service during her time there and had previously taught courses by contract for both the BC Institute of Technology and the Justice Institute. Stephany says she feels “blessed” to have the opportunity to teach and says what she enjoys most is “inspiring students to do and be their best, as well as watching them get excited about applying what they learn in the clinical setting.” In turn, she says, her students keep her “sharp with their many questions” and inspire her to give them her best back. While Stephany says it can be challenging to get some of her students “excited about doing the readings and using their critical thinking skills,” she maintains a simple but effective teaching philosophy that includes having a good grasp of her subject matter, staying current in her field, and consistently engaging students to get them excited about learning. “Having a passion for the material helps,” she notes, “as do real life case stories. You need to keep students’ attention by incorporating some of the ways that they now learn into your curriculum (e.g., inserting short videos and incorporating simulation).”

More recently, Stephany has taken the same passion and energy she gives to teaching into her role as a motivational and inspirational speaker. Having given many professional talks in her areas of expertise at conferences and gatherings of professional associations like the College of Registered Nurses of BC or the Canadian Counselling and Psychotherapy Association, Stephany says the opportunity to become more engaged as a public speaker “fell into place” somewhat serendipitously. “I have always offered to speak when asked about subjects that I am passionate about and I really loved speaking at the 2016 Bottom Line Conference in February of this year.  I got to speak about the topic of suicide and the workplace, and ways to help prevent suicide.”

Making her expertise available as a public speaker has opened many doors for Stephany and while she continues her teaching at Douglas College, she says she is excited to see what new opportunities await her as a motivational and inspirational speaker. As her website outlines, she offers guest speaking services and workshops as well as several free downloadable Podcasts. In addition to currently writing a textbook on suicide prevention, she has also created webinars for the International Suicide Day in September 2016 and, in Fall of 2017, she will give a lecture for the International Association of Administrative Professionals.