closeup photo of Alexis Gardner

From sociology student to supporting children and families

February 27, 2023
Author: Chelsea Marsolais

What Alexis Gardner did with her VIU degree

Alexis Gardner graduated from Vancouver Island University in 2019 with a Bachelor of Arts, major in Sociology, and minor in Gender Studies. Alexis originally thought she would become a counsellor or professor but then found a passion for community outreach and social innovation. She is currently employed in the social service industry with Big Brothers and Big Sisters in Victoria, as their Senior Mentoring and Outreach Coordinator. Alexis enjoys working closely with families and youth. Her dream is to open her own program that will support children and families facing barriers.

For this blog series, which shares the stories of VIU alumni to help inspire the next generation of learners, Alexis shares more about her career path and how getting involved at VIU helped her build key skills.

If you were entering this career today, would you change your preparation in any way?

There is nothing that Alexis would change. She lives with no regrets thanks to getting involved in the community. Alexis loved her university experience, which has been a major part of her success.    

What jobs and experiences have led you to your present position?

After graduating from VIU, Alexis was invited to speak at a conference in Montréal about being a first-generation university student. At that conference, she met Kim Samuel, Founder/Chief Belonging Officer of the Samuel Centre for Social Connectedness. She was invited to help with a research project, Supporting the Empowerment of Underrepresented Demographics of Youth in Leadership Initiatives. After that exciting opportunity, Alexis moved back to the coast in Vancouver to pursue a job for out-of-school programming with the Vancouver School Board. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Alexis went back to Nanaimo and got a part-time job in programming for an Indigenous community organization until she found her current job with Big Brothers and Big Sisters.

What aspects of your background have been most helpful?

All the presentations and group work in her VIU program have been a major part of her success. In group work, she met different people with new perspectives, and working out any conflicts that arose prepared her for the role she is in. Alexis began working at the age of 14 years old and has pursued a career in customer service as well, which is a significant experience that carries her to where she is able to succeed the most.

What incentives are there for staying in the same job?

The job Alexis is in has great opportunities for growth and development within the organization. Alexis also thinks by staying in the same job longer term, you become eligible for wage increases, vacation time and RRSP contributions.

What kinds of experiences, paid or unpaid, would you encourage people to have before entering this field?

Alexis emphasizes the value of strong customer service skills, interpersonal skills and exercising compassion, especially within the social service sector. People will come in with different backgrounds and you never know who will come to you with what problems. Volunteer experience is also key for entering this field especially if there is an opportunity with an organization you are interested in. Group work is also another way to practice interacting with different minds and practicing conflict resolution skills.

If you were conducting a job search today, how would you do it? How did you search for a job in the past?

Alexis began with looking at jobs through Indeed. She uses Charity Village, which is a job board for non-profit organizations. And networking is another tool she uses to her advantage.

Are there any similar jobs in your field that you know of currently hiring?

Alexis says that non-profit jobs are in high demand. The following organizations in Victoria would have the same or similar positions as hers: Cool Aid Victoria, Peers Victoria, The Victoria Youth Empowerment Society, Bridges for Women Society and United Way Southern Vancouver Island.

What advice do you have for students who want to work for your organization?

She encourages students to build up their resumé with experiences through extracurricular activities and getting involved with local non-profits like Kids Help and VI Crisis Line. Do not be afraid to put yourself out there and take chances. Have a strong cover letter that sells yourself and your skill set. One major thing Alexis emphasizes is that your heart really needs to be invested in the job, especially when you are working with vulnerable populations. And also – you need to take care of yourself to take care of others.


Chelsea Marsolais was born and raised in Calgary, Alberta. Her first job was at a summer day camp in Terrebonne, Quebec. She has worked in hospitality in Calgary and Lake Louise, Alberta, as well as in Nanaimo and Whistler, BC. Chelsea attends VIU, majoring in Kinesiology and minoring in French. She enjoys traveling and outdoor activities. Drop in to see her and the other peer facilitators in the Career Studio in Building 255, Room 204.

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