Portrait shot of Sanipan Debnath, a VIU MBA alum

Is going to grad school worth it?

January 13, 2022

Vancouver Island University alumni tell their stories

Are you wondering if you should take your education to the next level and add a graduate certificate, diploma or degree to your undergraduate degree? Graduate programs can be useful in situations such as moving into leadership roles or careers that require expertise in a specific field of study. To give you an idea of what grad school is like, four alumni from different VIU graduate programs share their stories.


Sandipan Debnath, Master of Business Administration ’21

Completing school and job hunting during a global pandemic didn’t slow Sandipan Debnath down one bit. He’s now a Business Development Representative at Wrapbook, a US-based tech start-up that is digitizing the entertainment payroll industry. Originally from Bangladesh, Debnath is now based out of Toronto at his current position.

How did VIU’s MBA program help prepare him for what he’s doing now?

“Today’s fast-changing business environment and globalization has made it mandatory for university graduates to stay up to date on all the latest business trends. VIU’s MBA program was developed with that in mind and has subjects that are extremely relevant for today’s workforce. Subjects like Corporate Social Responsibility and International Human Resources provided me in-depth knowledge about the global marketplace, managing a culturally diverse workforce and the importance of following ethical business practices. The MBA program has provided me with relevant knowledge and allowed me to grow my skill set accordingly.”

Lainy Nowak, Master of Community Planning’19

Lainy portrait photoGrowing up in Prince George, Lainy Nowak completed an undergraduate degree in political science and international studies, along with a public administration certificate, at the University of Northern British Columbia. Like many undergrads, she wasn’t sure what she wanted to do after graduating, so she taught English in Japan for a year. When Nowak came back, she worked at the City of Prince George in a role that allowed her to see how different departments function within a municipality.

“Development and Planning really seemed to be where all the buzz and excitement was coming from, however I was faced with a ‘glass ceiling’ on how far I could advance within the city without further education, so I decided to apply for planning school,” she remembers. “To my surprise, I was accepted into master of planning programs across the country. In the end, I chose Nanaimo because you can’t beat being close to the mountains and the ocean.”

One cool experience she had while studying at VIU was a research project examining how cities can better prepare for natural disasters and climate change. As part of this, she travelled to Christchurch, New Zealand last year, funded by a Queen Elizabeth Scholarship, to work with that city’s Civil Defence and Emergency Management department. In February 2011, a 6.2-magnitude earthquake struck 10 kilometres southeast of Christchurch, causing nearly 200 deaths and a massive amount of damage to structures. Nowak was there to discover what lessons city officials learned that could apply to other communities.

Nowak is now working as a planner with the City of Nanaimo.

“I feel grateful to be in a position that allows me to shape the community I live in,” says Nowak.

'Max̱w'ma̱widza̱mg̱a Sara Fulla, Master of Arts in Sustainable Leisure Management ’21

Sara Fulla

As an Indigenous woman and leisure scholar, Sara Fulla had the chance to merge her two worlds with her master’s degree research project, which explored leisure in a cultural context and Kwakwaka’wakw perspectives on leisure. Fulla received a $17,500 Canada Graduate Scholarships-Master’s grant to support her work.

“For far too long, non-Indigenous people have been sharing their perspectives and perceptions on Kwakwaka’wakw peoples and our ways of life, and I think it's time that our own people share our cultural and traditional knowledge,” says Fulla, who was born and raised in ‘Yalis, Alert Bay. “I don’t want my culture or language to be lost. I want our Kwakwaka’wakw traditions to be practised for another thousand years and more; for our Kwakwaka’wakw people to continue to sing our melodies, speak our language and dance our rhythms.” 

Fulla is now playing an important role in helping other Indigenous students feel comfortable bringing their culture and traditional knowledge to academia as an Indigenous Education Navigator with VIU’s Office of Indigenous Education and Engagement. Through this role, she supports Indigenous students throughout their post-secondary journeys.

“The Master of Arts in Sustainable Leisure Management program allowed me to grow as an emerging Indigenous scholar and focus on research that mattered most to me by creating my own Kwakwaka’wakw research paradigm that focused on specific teachings and concepts. Not only did I work with Dr. Nicole Vaugeois, VIU’s Associate Vice-President of Scholarship, Research and Creative Activity, we created a committee with Indigenous perspectives that allowed for a culturally safe space for me to conduct my research. After recently completing the MASLM program, I feel confident in supporting research, students and faculty at Vancouver Island University in my new role.”

Laura Tait, Master of Education in Educational Leadership ’10

Laura Tait portrait

When all public education had to move online in spring 2020, Laura Tait, who is Assistant Superintendent of Elementary Programs with Nanaimo Ladysmith Public Schools, helped organize the district’s 15,000 students to continue learning from home, then the partial return to classrooms two and a half months later, and then the full return in September 2020.

“We are now seeing that this pandemic is affecting everyone emotionally, socially, psychologically and myriad other ways. It is these impacts that we are responding to currently, from a systems perspective,” says Tait. “What gets me up in the morning is when a principal calls and tells me about a child who led their entire school in a morning dance assembly or a child who created an entirely new game and shared it with peers or when I get an email from a grandparent whose children and grandchildren I supported and she was just writing to say thank you, again! That’s the important stuff, that’s the stuff that will get us through COVID.”

Tait, who is Tsimshian from Prince Rupert, born into the Eagle Clan, and whose mother is from the village of Lax Kw’Alaams, worked for many years as an Indigenous Education teacher in the district, including while she was completing her master’s degree at VIU, an arrangement made possible by the program’s structure, which offers different options for working teachers such as fully online and weekends/over the summer.  


Want to learn more about graduate programs at VIU?

Register for VIU’s virtual Graduate Programs Expo on January 19 to meet with faculty, students, alumni and recruiters and learn more about graduate program options at VIU. Sandipan Debnath, our first featured alum in this blog post, is a keynote speaker. Check out this video for a guide to making the most of the event.

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