After doing a few tours of campuses in the pacific north west and Vancouver Island, Michelle Grahame decided that the Okanagan was the place for her at the time. With her sights set on a university where she could pursue a program in creative writing, she chose UBC Okanagan to complete her undergraduate degree.
“When I was looking at places to study and where I might be living, the campus in Kelowna just appealed to me a little bit more than others I had been to,” she says.
Coming from North Vancouver, she was looking for somewhere that was not so close to home. “As a first-year student, you’re spending pretty much all your time on campus, the Okanagan and the UBCO campus was somewhere I could picture myself.”
Grahame started her degree in 2010, and was on a fast track to complete by 2013. To do so, she took advantage of the classes over the summer, allowing her to earn her degree within three years.
“I think school had always kind of been my safe place, so I didn’t really know what it was like to be working or out in the world.” Grahame explains that she was eager to work on her courses throughout the summer to keep her engaged in her studies.
Realizing that everyone’s path is a little bit different, after graduation, she decided that she needed to go a different direction, took a working-holiday in Australia, came back and became a certified personal trainer before eventually undertaking a graduate diploma in business administration.
“One of the biggest pieces of advice that I often give people is take your time. There’s so much you can get out of things when you’re not rushing through them.”
“When I went into my undergraduate degree, I knew I wanted to do creative writing and was considering a double major, but without having much experience outside school never found the right fit.”
Grahame adds: “When I entered into the diploma in business administration, I thought to myself, ‘Ok, I have this creative writing degree, I’ve done all of these really random things with my career and I don’t really know what direction I’m going.’”
Deciding to gain business knowledge helped her grow and shift her thinking and begin planning for her future. “Instead of thinking about my end destination, I started to consider what are some of the things that I enjoy doing? What motivates and drives me? How might I grow and build on the things I have studied and learned?”
Grahame currently works at Simon Fraser University as an Associate Director in the Graduate Studies office, and is working to complete her Master’s in Business Administration (MBA).
During her undergraduate degree, Grahame focused mostly on poetry, and towards the second-half of her degree, she started doing a more nonfiction memoir writing.
“Learning to write in these different genres has really helped me as I’m working towards my MBA where there is a lot of reflective writing that is required,” she notes. “Although I’m not writing as much creatively right now, it’s having the ability to look back on your experiences and then present that to people, to be able to convey that message – that is something that I find most valuable from my degree.”
Grahame remembers that her classes at UBCO were intimate environments where you get to know both your professors and your peers quite well. The workshop experience really teaches you how to give constructive feedback but also receive and implement that constructive feedback.
“Being in the MBA program, it is team based, so having that experience at an undergraduate level made it quite an easy transition for me.”
Grahame adds that in her current career as a leader and manager, having that ability to work with your team and give that feedback is really important, and that practice with creative writing prepared her to be able to do just that.
“In those classes you are often sharing things that that are more intimate and makes you vulnerable. That experience has served me well in my workplace.”