After a seven-year career in postdoctoral biomedical research, Dr. Karen Quinn, PhD, returned to university in hopes of finding a new career direction. Quinn came back to the University of Calgary in the hopes of pursuing a degree in English, but found herself unsettled in her new field of study.
As a mature student switching majors, Quinn found it difficult to connect with other peers and find a sense of belonging. An appointment with Career Services helped her connect with an advisor, who worked with Quinn to discover opportunities that aligned with her skills and interests, more specifically, the roles of peer helper and tutor.
These volunteer roles provided a sense of connection and meaning, while also providing opportunities for mentorship — experiences she wasn’t necessarily finding in the classroom. After several volunteer roles, Quinn realized what she needed wasn’t necessarily a new degree, but hands-on volunteer experience to understand more about how her skills could align with her interests.
Experiencing these roles allowed Quinn to view the university as a holistic experience. After several successful stints volunteering in various roles, Quinn went on to become an academic advisor at UCalgary, where the combination of her volunteer, education and career experience came in handy — even her lab-based experience in problem-solving, analytical thinking and team collaboration complemented her role in advising students.