Ecosystem Management graduate stands up against plastic pollution

Rochelle Byrne, Fleming Ecosystem Management Technology graduate (Class of 2012), is proud to stand up for what she believes in. To raise awareness of plastic pollution, Rochelle stand-up paddleboarded 430km across Lake Ontario.

“I wanted to do this stand-up paddle to raise awareness of plastic pollution because, after doing hundreds of litter clean-ups along the shores of Lake Ontario, I found that plastic was the most common thing being found,” said Rochelle. “Some of it is coming from unexpected sources and a lot of it is completely preventable.”

Rochelle is the founder of A Greener Future, a non-profit organization that promotes environmental preservation through organized litter cleanups, educational programs and events. This includes the Love Your Lake series, comprising 100 organized litter cleanups along Lake Ontario. However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, A Greener Future was not able to host this event series in 2020.

Still committed to raising awareness about pollution in Lake Ontario, Rochelle decided to use her stand-up paddleboard and document her journey on social media to help educate others.

“I saw raw sewage in the lake, there were some smelly areas and dead fish,” said Rochelle, who spent 92 hours stand-up paddleboarding. “I’ll be sharing the full paddling journey through my personal Instagram (@rochellebyrneagf) over the coming months.”

While Rochelle always cared about nature and animals, it wasn’t until her experience at Fleming’s School of Environmental & Natural Resource Sciences that she developed a passion for the environment.

“I took Fleming’s Ecosystem Management program and that’s where I became aware of the impact I have on the environment. Before attending classes at Frost (Fleming’s Lindsay campus), I really didn’t know the impact I had,” Rochelle explains. “That was really a starting point for me on protecting the environment. It also gave me the opportunity to network and meet like-minded people.”

Rochelle is a proud Fleming College graduate and welcomes any like-minded people to volunteer at A Greener Future. To apply to volunteer, please visit A Greener Future’s website.

From diploma to PhD, Kelly McLean shares her Fleming education pathways experience

A passion for research and asking questions is what drove Kelly McLean on her education journey, earning diplomas, a bachelor’s degree, master’s degree, and now working towards a PhD. But achieving this level of education was not what Kelly had in mind when she started her post-secondary studies at Fleming College.

“I had never planned on doing a master’s, let alone a PhD,” said Kelly. “I struggled academically in high school, and it wasn’t until I started at Fleming and began studying something I was interested in that I began to achieve good grades and consider university as an option.”

Kelly graduated from Fleming College’s Fish and Wildlife Technician program in 2012, followed by Ecosystem Management Technology in 2013, and Fish and Wildlife Technology in 2014.

“My interest in doing a PhD has been a cascading effect from my Fleming co-op, as this project is in partnership with my co-op organization,” said Kelly on her PhD research which is a collaboration between the University of Waterloo and the Canadian Wildlife Service.

After her co-op placement, Kelly worked two summers as a Federal Student Work Experience student with the Canadian Wildlife Service as well as various contract positions, which included conducting crane surveys.

For her PhD in Social and Ecological Sustainability at the University of Waterloo, Kelly is researching the spatial ecology and habitat selection of sandhill cranes in Ontario and Quebec under the supervision of Dr. Brad Fedy. Sandhill cranes have grown in population and geographic range in the past decade, after being nearly extirpated from their historical range in Ontario in the early 1900s. Since this species forages in agricultural fields, this increase in population raises concerns of potential crop damage.

Kelly is working with the Canadian Wildlife Service to equip 80 cranes with transmitters to determine fine scale habitat use, migration timing and strategies, and help answer ecology questions. This research will help determine which agricultural fields are more prone to crop depredation, and potentially determine methods to prevent or mitigate crop damage.

“Science is all about asking questions, and I think that asking and answering relevant questions is very important in wildlife management,” said Kelly. “I was once told that in college, you learn what sort of things you can ask questions about; in your undergrad, you learn what sort of questions you can ask; in your master’s, you learn how to ask those questions; and during your PhD, you actually answer the questions.”

After graduating from Fleming College, Kelly used Fleming’s education pathway to Trent University and earned her Honours Bachelor of Science Degree in Biology in 2016. She then spent four months working as a Student Migratory Game Bird Technician for the Aquatic Assessment Unit of Environment Canada’s Canadian Wildlife Service, followed by another eight months working as a Wildlife Biologist.

This experience working for the federal government inspired Kelly to earn a master’s degree, wanting to open doors for herself in policy and decision-making positions.

For her Master of Science and Forestry at the University of New Brunswick, Kelly studied wetland buffer width and the persistence of black ducks in New Brunswick under the supervision of Dr. Joe Nocera. Kelly worked with the Canadian Wildlife Service Atlantic Region and Ducks Unlimited Canada Atlantic Region to determine the effects of commercial forest harvesting on the distribution of breeding black ducks.

“The field and logistical planning skills that I learned at Fleming were vital to this component of my masters. I had to navigate in dense forest and identify waterfowl daily, just like a typical day at Fleming field camp. It was the kind of position that Fleming excels at preparing students for, except this time I was the one in charge,” said Kelly, who had the help of a Fleming Fish and Wildlife student on co-op placement and a Fleming graduate working as a technician.

“The knowledge I gained at Fleming is a great foundation that I continually build on,” she said.

For those considering an education pathway from Fleming College, Kelly recommends taking the opportunity.

“You do not have to be the smartest person in the class to continue your education. Hard work and a good attitude are just as important as your GPA,” said Kelly. “The pathways program is a great way to effectively and economically get the best of both worlds and be very employable.”

Fleming Environmental Technology graduate Joseph Gentile performs essential environmental services for City of Toronto

Joseph Gentile is putting his Environmental Technology skills to use by delivering essential environmental services amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.

As one of six summer student technicians in the Environmental Monitoring & Protection Unit of Toronto Water, Joseph is responsible for environmental water quality monitoring of surface waters in the City of Toronto.

“I think seeing the piece of the puzzle my co-workers and I contribute to the larger picture, on a daily basis, has made me aware of just how important it is to continue environmental monitoring, even during a global pandemic,” said Joseph, who monitors stormwater outfall and public beach surface water.

“Continuing these efforts is crucial in providing the public, specifically Toronto’s three million residents, the information they need to make informed decisions about where to safely swim,” he said. “Consistent environmental monitoring also allows councils and other decision-making authorities to access concrete, reliable data for making informed decisions about the fate of projects and how to best re-evaluate them in the future.”

Performing environmental service duties amidst the pandemic requires Joseph to be adaptable and to follow media sources closely for information, as the situation is evolving daily. “My team and I had to be aware of the timely decisions made by politicians,” he explains. “In the month of June, we received confirmation that beaches would re-open, hence the kickstart of the 2020 beaches water quality monitoring program. We continue to work and communicate with public health officials, city council and leaders from other departments to ensure this program is being fulfilled while adhering to new protocols and procedures.”

Working as a summer student technician has been a fantastic experience for Joseph, who enjoys trekking through dense vegetation and exciting terrain to access waterways, managing datasets, and assisting with data entry and technical reports.

His favourite experience thus far is working in a watershed within East York, sampling stormwater discharge from remote stormwater outfalls. On route, Joseph and his colleagues spotted a family of deer, a Blue Heron, and several rare wildflower species. For an ecosystem within the Toronto area, Joseph is amazed at the diversity it offers.

He is grateful for this career experience and feels confident performing duties thanks to his Fleming College education. “From sampling effluent water exiting stormwater outfalls to collecting beach water samples and analyzing them in the lab, the Environmental Technology program has prepared me to work in this dynamic workplace environment quite well,” said Joseph, who has been passionate about protecting the environment since childhood.

Joseph chose Fleming College’s Environmental Technology advanced diploma program for its mix of field and laboratory learning experiences, and the variety of careers he could pursue. He highly recommends this program to anyone interested in learning about the natural environment and monitoring and protecting it for future generations.

“My experience at Frost has been nothing short of amazing!” said Joseph, who graduated in 2020. “The people on campus – professors, faculty, and peers – are all friendly and will know you on a first-name basis. This program is really dynamic and has supplied me with some amazing certifications and interactive learning opportunities, which allow me to feel confident in my ability applying my acquired knowledge in a real-work setting.”

Joseph will be continuing his education this September in Trent University’s Water Sciences degree program, which he applied to at Fleming College’s annual Education Pathways event. “The Environmental Technology program has exposed me to so many fascinating components of our natural environment and is allowing me, as a graduate, to specialize in a component that I find intriguing,” said Joseph.

“My time at Fleming has certainly played a role in preparing me for my next chapter at Trent University,” he said. “While I am sure some parts will be new, I know that the experience – not only through academics, but practical experience also – I have gained will help me make a seamless transition to university.”

Fleming Hospitality graduate Jasmine Madalena continues studies to earn degree in Ireland

Jasmine Madalena’s climb up the Knocknarea mountain serves as a metaphor for her study abroad experience in Ireland.

“I met people along the way, I wanted to give up many times, I got to see the most breathtaking landscape and, at the end when I got to the top, I felt proud, excited and ready to see more,” Jasmine explains.

After graduating from Fleming College’s Hospitality – Hotel and Restaurant Operations program in 2017, Jasmine decided to continue her studies and have an amazing adventure in Ireland by earning her Bachelor of Business in Tourism with Event Management at IT Sligo. Jasmine received credit recognition for her two years of study at Fleming College, which she applied towards her degree.

“My number one goal in life is to travel to as many places as this world has to offer,” said Jasmine, who grew up travelling with her family and especially enjoyed their trips to Disney World.

Jasmine enrolled in Fleming’s Hospitality – Hotel and Restaurant Operations program for a career that could take her around the world, and decided to start her independent travels by studying abroad.

“Studying abroad gave me that opportunity to travel Europe and get my bachelor’s at the same time,” said Jasmine, who visited Belfast, Giant’s Causeway, the Cliffs of Moher, kissed the Blarney Stone, enjoyed a Game of Thrones Tour and more during her time in Ireland.

“It was amazing, an unforgettable experience of learning– not just the program, but what Ireland has to offer as well,” said Jasmine. “The program can be difficult, but it taught me a lot. Most of the projects were in teams, which allowed me to meet new people and make new friends that I am still in contact with.’

‘I do believe that the things I’ve learned at both Fleming and IT Sligo are very useful knowledge that I use daily. It did help me get a job after college, and I’m sure it will help me even more in the future.”

Jasmine says she didn’t enjoy school growing up and it wasn’t until Fleming College that she began to love learning. She explains, “Growing up, I didn’t really enjoy school. But going to Fleming, learning something I wanted to learn, got me excited to continue my studies. I also got to meet some pretty amazing people.”

Jasmine enjoyed the Hospitality – Hotel and Restaurant Operations program – especially the class field trips to visit different hotels – and is appreciative of the amazing faculty at Fleming College.

“I’ll never stop learning,” said Jasmine. “My only plan is to find the right career and to see the world, and I know I’ll be able to with the mindset that I have. By loving myself and staying positive, I know that everything I want in life will happen.”

Practical Nursing graduate proud to work at Ross Memorial Hospital amidst pandemic

When Mackenzie Lotton graduated from Fleming College two years ago, she never imagined working alongside her mother at Ross Memorial Hospital. Nor did she imagine working amidst a global pandemic. But working in healthcare is right where Mackenzie wants to be.

“There is nothing more rewarding than going into work knowing that you are able to make an impact on someone else’s life,” said Mackenzie. “The good days outweigh the bad, and the bad days are what make me a stronger nurse.”

Mackenzie (left), pictured here with her mother.

Mackenzie was inspired by her mother – a nurse for 30 years now – to become a nurse, as she grew up seeing what a rewarding career it is to help others, impact lives, and learn something new every day.

She chose Fleming College’s Practical Nursing program for her post-secondary education because she heard positive reviews about the program and the student experience at Fleming College, and the Sutherland Campus is commuting distance to her home in Lindsay, Ontario.

I would recommend Fleming’s Practical Nursing program to others,” said Mackenzie, who graduated in 2018. “Fleming helped me achieve my goal to become a nurse in a manner that I don’t believe any other school could have. It prepared me for the real world of nursing the best that it could.”

Mackenzie now works in the Emergency Department at Ross Memorial Hospital, working as part of a healthcare team to care for patients in the best possible manner.

“Two years ago, I never thought I would be working in a hospital in my hometown, let alone working in a busy emergency department alongside my mom,” said Mackenzie. “There have been many ups and downs over the last two years of my new career, but I would not change a single thing about it.”

Mackenzie shared that she has learned so much from her colleagues and feels incredibly supported by them as she grows her career. This strong bond with her team is one of many reasons Mackenzie believes it is important for her to continue working amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Everyone is working long hours and we all need that extra support of knowing that we are never alone in any of this and there is always help with you need it,” said Mackenzie.

She shared that her biggest goal is to be able to help patients and provide comfort, explaining, “Many of these patients that are coming into the hospital have to face all of the uncertainties alone, so if I can make a difference in someone’s hospital visit then I can leave my shift at the end of the day knowing I did my job the way it needed to be done.”

Mackenzie said her work routine has changed amidst the pandemic, which includes: wearing street clothing to work, wearing a mask, entering through a specific door, answering multiple questions and having her temperature taken by a screener, and changing into provided scrubs in her department.

“Work has changed from the minute I start my day until it ends due to rules that have been put in place to protect everyone,” she said.

Mackenzie’s advice to everyone is to be patient with frontline workers, who are doing their best to keep the community and themselves safe.

“With some restrictions being lifted, please keep in mind that we all still have to be smart with what we do in our everyday lives,” said Mackenzie, advising to handwash frequently. “The number of cases is beginning to decrease; however, this will only continue if we all work together as a community and country.”

Fleming GIS graduate Matt Pietryszyn launches COVID-19 Alerts System to share data with the public

When the shift to essential services began in Canada, Qwhery founder Matt Pietryszyn noticed the struggle many people faced with finding localized COVID-19-related information. The Fleming College graduate decided to put his Geographic Information Systems (GIS) skills to use and launched a platform to help keep the public informed.

“While working on another project (ProjectPandemic), I met Sabrina Tang, owner of SaFuture Inc. We discussed how there was so much information about COVID-19 cases on the Internet, yet many people still didn’t know where to get it, in terms of their own communities,” said Matt. “We decided to collaborate on a solution that would send that localized information directly to anyone who registered for the daily or weekly notifications.”

The platform, which is a collaboration between Qwhery and SaFuture Inc., enables people to receive local COVID-19-related data directly to their phone for free. Subscribers receive alerts or daily and weekly summary notifications for confirmed cases, recoveries, tests and deaths within their health region in Canada or county in the United States. The COVID-19 Alerts System utilizes data curated by Esri Canada provided by Health Regions across Canada and Johns Hopkins University for American data.

“We felt it important to keep this a free service because we wanted to be able to help get this information out to everyone who wanted it, with no restrictions or barriers,” said Matt. “We were able to secure a grant from Twilio, a leader in SMS technology, and have been able to support and sustain the COVID-19 Alerts System at a very low cost.”

The response to the platform has been positive, with people subscribing from all over North America. “As subscribers to our service continue to receive their daily notifications, they get a better understanding of the pandemic and what’s happening in their own communities,” said Matt.

The GIS graduate said he entered the industry in 2003 with confidence and a head-start thanks to his Fleming College education, which trained him on industry-standard tools and software and encouraged him to be creative with projects and assignments.

“I believe that my experience at Fleming gave me the confidence to enter the workforce and provided me with a strong network of peers and mentors that helped me since I graduated,” said Matt. “The faculty was very knowledgeable of the industry and having that insight shared with me at the beginning of my career really helped me be confident in my decisions to pursue various roles in GIS.”

After working for the City of Brampton, Esri Canada and the City of Hamilton, Matt founded Qwhery in August 2019 as a creative outlet to experiment with ideas and develop solutions to benefit a wide audience. Qwhery is a leader in implementing voice technology and geographic information systems. Their flagship product, Q11, connects smart home devices and voice assistants to local government open data portals, and the Qwhery cloud helps cities connect their services to residents through smart home technology, open data and community engagement.

Matt is currently focused on connecting Amazon Alexa and Google Home with Municipal Open Data, location-based information and services to efficiently provide citizens with information from their municipality– without needing to search on a website or call 311.

After working in GIS for 17 years and founding Qwhery, Matt continues to use his Fleming College skills and knowledge and highly recommends the program to those interested in this career path.

“I enjoyed my time at Fleming College very much. I got involved through a job at the computer lab and really immersed myself in the program,” he said. “I would absolutely recommend the GIS program to others, and I do every chance I get.”

For information about Qwhery, Location Intelligence and Voice Tech, please contact Matt Pietryszyn at matt@qwhery.com.

Fleming College graduate Kimberly Coe feels honoured to be a nurse

Kimberly Coe, pictured before an N95 surgical mask, face shield and gloves were required as a protective measure.

Kimberly Coe felt anxious when the COVID-19 pandemic began, but now the Registered Practical Nurse feels comfortable with her new normal.

“I feel safe and surrounded by a good group of people,” said Kimberly, who works in the Palliative Unit and Complex Continuing Care at Peterborough Regional Health Centre (PRHC).

In Kimberly’s new work routine, she wears street clothes to work and changes into uniform at the hospital. She also wears an N95 surgical mask, face shield and gloves as a protective measure.

But adapting her work routine is worth it because Kimberly loves being a nurse.

“I love it. Is it hard? Yes. But I find caring for people to be a privilege,” she explains. “In Palliative Nursing, it’s not just about the patients, it’s about the families you touch.”

One special moment was when Kimberly received a private Facebook message from the daughter of a patient who had passed away.

Three months earlier, Kimberly had painted that patient’s nails. “In the message, she said it took her three months to find me,” Kimberly explains. “She told me, ‘my mom may not have known you were painting her nails, but I did. And that mattered to me. That made a difference to me.’”

Kimberly loves helping others and has always spent time caring for her family, friends and neighbours. She decided to pursue her dream of being a nurse at 51 years old when, after a late summer night chatting with a friend, she felt encouraged to apply to Fleming College.

Unfortunately Kimberly was not accepted into the Practical Nursing program, but she was encouraged to consider the General Arts and Science – College Health Science (GHS) program (now called Pre-Health Sciences Pathway to Certificates and Diplomas). GHS is a pathway program that prepares students for admission to college programs in health sciences, biology or chemical sciences.

 “The Practical Nursing coordinator at the time said the GHS program would be a good thing for me to do because I had been out of school for a long time,” said Kimberly. “She said it would help get the wheels going and that really appealed to me. I enrolled and it was the best thing for me!”

Kimberly balanced her studies with personal responsibilities, including being a single mom to a 16-year-old and home ownership, and is happy with her decision to return to college. She encourages anyone considering a nursing career to take the Pre-Health program because it prepares students for college and helps with the transition.

“Everything in the GHS program is all useful stuff and it’s a really great way to figure out what you want to do for your career,” said Kimberly. “I loved (coordinator) Susan Hyndman’s biology class; she is a phenomenal teacher and it was an unbelievable learning experience.”

Outside of class, Kimberly worked at the Fleming Campus Store and enjoyed taking study breaks in the Steele Centre. “I would go there to relax and listen to music, talk to friends, and close my books for a minute,” she said. “It’s important to take breaks and have fun too.”

To support her studies, Kimberly used Fleming Tutoring Services and highly recommends this academic support. “I never failed. My marks were high and I made the Dean’s List for the first time in my life!” she said. “People think you only use Tutoring when you’re failing, but you should go to Tutoring right from the start to help you succeed.”

After completing the GHS program in 2017, Kimberly enrolled in Practical Nursing and, during her last year at Fleming College, she was joined on campus by her daughter. Kimberly’s daughter is studying in Fleming’s School of Trades and Technology and Kimberly is proud of her for pursuing this profession.

While her daughter continues studying at Fleming College, Kimberly is proud that her education led to employment. After completing consolidation in the Palliative Unit at PRHC and graduating in 2019, Kimberly was hired immediately as a Registered Practical Nurse.

She highly recommends Fleming’s Pre-Health program to others and said she really enjoyed her Fleming College experience.

“People asked me when I started, ‘are you going to the Orientation?’ and I said, ‘of course I am!’ I loved that day; I had the most fun! And I wear my Fleming College buff from Orientation to the hospital!” she laughs. “I loved those days and I want to go back– I’d love to return and volunteer in the GHS program.”

Fairhaven Long-Term Care feels like second family for Human Resources Coordinator Emily Campbell

Fairhaven Long-Term Care is a special place to work. For Human Resources Coordinator Emily Campbell, it feels like a second family.

“Our home has a great atmosphere. Everyone works together as a team,” said Emily. “I love being part of a team that positively impacts other lives. Whether I am an employee’s shoulder to lean on when they are having a difficult day, or simply taking time to listen and hear employees or residents, I love making residents and staff smile.”

As the Human Resources Coordinator at Fairhaven Long-Term Care, Emily is responsible for recruitment, onboarding and general orientation. She also does Human Resources data entry, serves as education coordinator for the e-learning database, and analyzes and records for the attendance support program.

And amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, Emily is also responsible for implementing Human Resources changes to maintain the health and safety of staff and residents.

“There has been lots of change to my job and work routine,” said Emily, who ramped up recruitment to ensure Fairhaven is fully staffed and hired pandemic cleaners for above-and-beyond cleaning of the building.

Job interviews are now conducted online via Zoom instead of in-person, general orientation is compressed into a half-day to help limit the amount of people in the room; and face-to-face interactions amongst employees is very limited, as employees are required to stay in their home unit for their entire shift.

Although there are challenges working amidst the pandemic, Emily loves working at Fairhaven Long-Term Care.

She began working at Fairhaven in May 2018 on a temporary contract immediately after completing Fleming College’s Business Administration – Human Resources Management program. This was followed by a contract in Human Resources at Peterborough Victoria Northumberland and Clarington Catholic District School Board. In April 2019, Emily returned to Fairhaven for a permanent full-time role as Human Resources Coordinator.

“My most memorable experience at Fairhaven was our 2019 Fall Carnival,” said Emily on her best work experience. “Every year, Fairhaven has a Fall Carnival for residents, staff, and their families. The Fall Carnival event includes horse wagon rides, petting zoo, bouncy castle, and barbecue.”

Emily is happy she chose to pursue a career in Human Resources and highly recommends Fleming College. “My overall experience as a student at Fleming was amazing, one of the best life experiences I have had! I gained many friendships and mentors along the way, which I am very grateful for.”

Emily also developed many skills at Fleming College, including self-confidence, presentation skills, and effective organizing and planning.

“Whether it was in-class courses, simulations or placements, Fleming College gave me the knowledge and skills needed in order to succeed in real life, on-the-job situations.”

For those currently studying at Fleming College, Emily’s advice is: “don’t be scared to make mistakes– that’s how we learn. Make sure you ask questions. Get involved in the community and keep smiling!”

Paramedic Josh Hogan is confident in his Fleming College education, skills and knowledge

Although Josh Hogan is still new to the paramedic profession, he feels well-prepared for his career at Peterborough Paramedics thanks to his Fleming College education.

“Between labs and teaching, you’re ready to start as soon as you’ve finished the program,” said Josh, who graduated from Fleming’s Paramedic program in 2019 and General Arts and Science – College Health Science program (now called Pre-Health Sciences Pathway to Certificates and Diplomas) in 2017.

“My experience at Fleming was awesome. There’s an ambulance so you can practise driving, you can practise skills and scenarios anytime, graduates come back to give students feedback, and the faculty are fantastic.”

Josh decided to pursue this career after experiencing a hockey injury that led to paramedics arriving to help.

“I cut my leg badly playing hockey and the paramedics that came did an amazing job,” he explains. “To see how well they did their job and calmed everyone down made me want to do that one day.”

He took the General Arts and Science – College Health Science certificate to build a strong foundation before entering the competitive Paramedic program. He said this certificate helped him feel more prepared for the Paramedic program.

Now that Josh is working as a paramedic, he is certainly experiencing challenges amidst this global pandemic, however he feels confident in his skills and knowledge.

“I still enjoy it, but it is more stressful,” said Josh on working amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. “Before, I wouldn’t feel stressed by normal calls, it would be car accidents that would bring stress; Now, every call is stressful. We’re trying not to bring anything home to family and friends.”

Josh explains that 911 dispatchers do a COVID-19 screening call and, when paramedics arrive, they ask a series of questions to determine whether additional Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) is required, such as face shields, masks and gowns. If the patient may have COVID-19, paramedics report to the hospital and bring the patient to a designated arrival area by ambulance.

Another change due to the COVID-19 pandemic is that family members can no longer ride in the ambulance with patients.

“It’s been a learning curve,” said Josh. “We’re not running into scenes; we’re making sure we’re okay first by screening and wearing PPE. I think some of these changes will stay now that we’ve experienced this.”

His advice to others is to continue to be cautious. “Don’t go out unless you need to, wash your hands and, if you’re sick, stay home and get a family member to run your errands.”

Hospitality graduate Sophia Darling uses Fleming College skills at Fairmont Royal York

Sophia Darling, Executive Meeting Manager at Fairmont Royal York, always knew a career in hospitality was the right path for her. But with so many areas of hospitality to work in, Sophia wasn’t always sure what area to focus on.

After working in food and beverage, Sophia believed she should move into culinary as a pastry chef. “But after exploring this idea, I realized that my true passion was working with people rather than cakes!” she laughs.

While navigating the Fleming College website, Sophia discovered the Hotel and Restaurant Management program and realized it was a great fit for her. “I saw that the classes offered ranged from Business and Accounting, to Travel and Tourism, Revenue and Hotel Management, as well as Food Service and Restaurant Operations,” she explains. “The diversity of the classes piqued my interest and I decided to enrol.”

Sophia (right) during her Fleming College studies with classmate Cynthia Martschini (née Shaw)

Sophia said Fleming helped prepare her for a career in the industry. As Executive Meeting Manager at Fairmont Royal York, Sophia said she uses skills from Fleming’s Accounting course to provide estimates to clients, knowledge from Revenue Management to quote meeting space prices, and often uses skills developed through sales and client relationships discussions at Fleming College.

“Fleming College allowed me to learn about so many different fields of the hospitality industry,” said Sophia. “I think this helped me understand how multi-faceted this industry is and the benefit of having experience across different industry segments. Through the interactions with my classmates and professors, I also learned the importance of developing relationships and learning from the people around you – group work doesn’t stop when you graduate. You will always have to work with others as a team, and success truly comes from collaboration!”

As a Fleming College student, Sophia participated in the Student Work Experience Program and worked at Fairmont Banff Springs during the summer of 2014. After graduating from Fleming College in 2015, she continued her education at the University of Guelph through Fleming Education Pathways and earned her Bachelor of Commerce Honours in two years.

“Fleming College truly provided the hands-on learning experience that helped me transition into university,” said Sophia. “I learned so much from my fellow classmates and from my program coordinator, Jennifer Rishor. As a student navigating my education and career path, I was fortunate to have Jennifer as such a big proponent to the growth and development of not only myself, but of all of the students in our program!”

Sophia continued to grow her career with Fairmont. She participated in the SUMMIT Leadership Development Program – Food & Beverage Management from 2017 to 2018, and worked as Catering Sales Coordinator, Catering Sales Manager, and is now the Executive Meeting Manager.

Sophia’s advice to current and prospective students interested in this industry is to get involved and network. “You never know who you will come across or work with in your career after graduating,” she said. “Learn as much as you can about all of the different areas of this industry—the more experience you have, the more of an asset you will be!”