Celebrating the graduates of Spring 2021: Carmen Gu

Meet some of the amazing members of the graduating class of Spring 2021 from the Faculty of ALES.

The University of Alberta is celebrating this year’s graduates with a virtual convocation ceremony on June 25. As we celebrate the achievements of our graduating class, we’re sharing just a few of the amazing stories of our new alumni.

Meet Carmen Gu, graduating with a BSc in human ecology, with a major in family science and a minor in aging. Hear from Gu on her experience in the Faculty of Agricultural, Life & Environmental Sciences community, the human ecology program, her volunteering experience, and making the most of your time at university.

Congratulations Carmen!

What brought you to the U of A?

I was born and raised in Edmonton, so it was natural for me to stay close to home. In my eyes, Edmonton is a city that has a lot to offer and so I want to be a part of the youth giving back to this hidden gem of a community during my university years. Additionally, I had family that attended the University of Alberta so I also wanted to follow their footsteps.

Tell us about your experience in ALES.

I love the Faculty of ALES community and my program. The faculty student advisors are so helpful and considerate—maybe I’m biased, but they are the best! I struggled academically in my first year and when I approached my student advisor at the time, she explored different options regarding course recommendations and how I could improve. After the meeting with a student advisor, I felt encouraged to diversify my experiences by partaking in the Community Engagement and Service Learning Certificate (CSL) program, where I was able to combine my knowledge from human ecology with CSL opportunities to contribute to my community while developing invaluable soft skills.

In human ecology, I had the chance to learn about all things related to families, from relationships, to the impact of work on families, as well as other factors. Along the way, I had the chance to get to know many of my professors, especially my practicum coordinator who has worked tirelessly to ensure that all human ecology students in their final year have the opportunity to practice and develop as an upcoming human ecologist in their interested fields. In my program, I am grateful to have had an integrated practicum experience to practice and advance the knowledge and skills that I have learned throughout my program. Within both the faculty and my program there is a tremendous sense of community and I am proud to have been a part of it.

What is one of your favourite memories from your time at the U of A?

I have created many good memories from my time at the University of Alberta. One of my favourite memories during my time at the University of Alberta and the Faculty of ALES is participating in Project Serve, which is a volunteering event typically held in September for new students. Ever since first year, I have participated in Project Serve both as a participant and as a student leader where I was given the opportunity to volunteer and lead groups of students to volunteer at various non-profit community organizations. It was through these opportunities to participate in the community and learn about the impacts these organizations have on the community that I learned about the CSL program. This early memory is one that contributed to my choice in pursuing the CSL certificate and my passion to continue to contribute within the community.

What advice do you have for current and future students in the Faculty of ALES?

My piece of advice for both current and future students is to not be afraid to get involved—on or off campus—and be willing to try new things even if it means getting outside of your usual comfort zone. If an opportunity presents itself to you, take it! I became involved with the Faculty of ALES Undergraduates’ Association (FAUnA) after a friend suggested that I should join. I was hesitant at the time as I was concerned about whether I would be able to balance school and a commitment like student groups. I never thought I stood a chance, but in retrospect, I am so glad I did because I was able to learn a lot about student governance through that position.

I also joined the Human Ecology Students’ Association (HESA) where I was able to get to know other human ecology students and was able meet like-minded individuals who wanted to contribute to enhancing students’ experiences in the faculty and taking on executive roles allowed me to learn and develop interpersonal and professional skills and knowledge that I otherwise probably would not have been able to learn.

Last but definitely not least, I would like to tell current and future students to consider extending their degree if it means that they can better balance school and extracurriculars and not burn out. In our fast-paced and technology-driven society, so often we give ourselves this invisible pressure to prioritize speed over everything else. However, speed should definitely not be prioritized over our well-being—be it our mental or physical health. Remember, your university career is only so long, make the most out of it!

How have you spent your free time during the COVID-19 pandemic?

During the pandemic, I went on a lot of walks to get myself out of the house to be more active. Despite restrictions in the past year, I continued to volunteer during the pandemic as the organizations I volunteer with still require volunteers’ help. This also allowed me to maintain some sort of normalcy during these abnormal times. Additionally, I did lots of baking and learned new hobbies like crocheting—although I’m not very good—and developed new routines for how I could connect and check-in with friends virtually.

How do you plan on celebrating convocation?

For convocation, I plan on spending time with family and indulging in some good food. As restrictions are being lifted and social gatherings are permitted, I hope to meet up with friends who I haven’t seen in a long time and catch up on life as well as enjoying the nice summer weather that Edmonton has been getting (of course, with good food as well).

What’s next after graduation?

I am currently doing a four-month summer internship (originally scheduled for last summer, but the pandemic had other plans for me), through the CSL Pathways Program. I work in an organization called GROW Women Leaders that strives to help empower immigrant and BIPOC women through a platform that mentors, supports, and trains women to become leaders and advance their careers.

Once the internship is over, I hope to find a job that I am passionate about and something where I can contribute back to the community and help improve others’ lives. I do not have current plans to continue with school but I will continue to be open to opportunities and for lifelong learning. While no one knows what the future holds, I will continue to embrace opportunities for self-development that come my way.