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Alumni Profile Diane Umezuki
BA in Psychology, minor in Fine and Performing Arts, Simon Fraser University, 1987
Connect with Diane on Linkedin.
1. Where do you currently work and what is your position? / Which jobs or careers have you held since completion of your Psychology degree up until your current role?
At the present time, I am retired. I was employed with the Federal Government, Correctional Service Canada for just over 32 years. I commenced my career as a Correctional Officer at Matsqui Institution located in Abbotsford in 1988 soon after graduating from Simon Fraser University. My interests lay in the counselling side of corrections and not so much in security and as such, I eventually secured employment as an Institutional Parole Officer. I then transferred to the Vancouver Parole Office as a Community Parole Officer where I assisted high risk offenders transition to the community in a safe manner.
2. Why did you decide to study psychology?
I enrolled in a Psychology class in high school and just loved it. From that point on, I knew I wanted to study Psychology.
3. What were your favourite courses / who were your favourite professors at SFU psychology? / What do you recall most strongly from your time at SFU?
Honestly, my studies at SFU were so long ago, it's difficult to recall much. However, I do remember a class in Adulthood and Aging that I really enjoyed and at the time was considering working with the elderly. Additionally, there was a course in licit and illicit drugs which was really fascinating.
4. What did you originally plan to do with your degree in psychology during your undergrad, if you had any ideas at that time? Is that different than what you do now? If so, how?
Initially, I had no plans for a career when I started at SFU. Ironically, it was a criminology course that influenced my interest in corrections. During this course, we toured Mission Institution, a correctional facility. Mission Institution was fairly new and it was at that time, I decided I wanted to work there. Funny thing is, after my training as a Correctional Officer we were asked which institution we preferred to work at. Forgetting the name "Mission" and only recalling that the institution started with an "M", I picked Matsqui Institution. Eventually, I did get a chance to transfer to Mission Institution, but in the end, preferred Matsqui. As noted previously, my interests were not so much in the security of the institution; rather they lay in the counselling side. However, as a Correctional Officer and later on as a Parole Officer, my degree in Psychology was an asset to effective communication with the offenders.
5. How did your time at SFU change you and influence your career?
As noted above, SFU had a direct influence on me and the career path I took. A bachelor's degree in social work, criminology, psychology, sociology or other related social science discipline is a requirement of a Parole Officer as the job requires assessing and analyzing offenders' behaviours and potential risk to society via interviews, direct observations and counselling. As a Parole Officer, I was required to maintain regular contact with each offender on my caseload and develop appropriate programming and treatment options that address the factors that led to their criminal activity in the first place. Without a degree in Psychology I would not have had the necessary tools and skills to do the job adequately.
6. What advice would you give to students that you wish you knew in your undergrad? / What was important to you then and what’s important now?
My advice to students is explore different directions and ensure that you are in a field you love, not for the money, but one that you have a real interest in. An education opens more doors and opportunities to explore. As they say: "Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life." I was fortunate enough to love working with offenders and found the job extremely rewarding whenever there was change for the better.