Ask the students graduating this weekend why they chose Providence University College for their post-secondary education and you’ll get as many answers as there are, well, students.
Some arrived at the Otterburne campus to pursue a specific program; others had hazier ideas of what they were looking for and ended up finding something they might not have expected but that brought out their best. Most began their studies somewhere in between.
Morden’s Samuel Goertzen, who will graduate on Sunday with a Bachelor of Arts in Music, initially came to Providence as part of the first Mile Two Discipleship School cohort.
“It’s something of a long story, as I originally started out as a TESOL major and Music minor, and before that came for Mile Two, which was the original draw,” he explains. “The long and short of it is that I had a lot of credits already transferred to the University College from Mile Two, and I enjoyed my Music courses enough that I switched to doing a Music major.”
Also graduating this weekend is Julika Phommarath—the Pilots women’s soccer star who won about every individual award there was to win during her four years at Providence. She’s set to graduate with a Bachelor of Arts in TESOL and hopes to continue working in soccer in some capacity. It was the personal touch of coaches and enrollment personnel that attracted her to Providence.
“There was a college fair at my high school, and Providence representatives were there. When they talked about the women’s soccer program I was really interested,” she recalls. “A few weeks later Giancarlo Calla, then the women’s soccer coach, came and watched my game in Steinbach. He and his assistant Joel Janke chatted with me about playing for the Pilots. I decided to give it a shot.”
Both Sam and Julika will carry fond memories of dorm life into the future as both were impacted by, and contributed to, the Providence community.
Just in terms of practicality, Julika points out that getting to soccer practice was easier because she lived on campus. Living near the school also meant she could “slide right out of bed and be in class within five minutes.” Sam says he knew the names of more than half the Providence students during his first year in dorm and came to especially appreciate the international student community, representative of nearly 30 countries.
“[Living in residence] helped me build a sense of belonging within the community at Providence,” says Julika. “It also gave me the opportunity to live independently and away from everything else, to allow me to gain a taste of my step into adulthood.”
Adds Sam: “And while there are always risks of getting noisy night-owl neighbours (you know who you are) or unhygienic roommates, I would recommend living in dorm. I have a lot of good memories of stopping by others’ rooms, ending up staying to eat hot dogs and noodles and conversing about everything under the sun until the wee hours of the morning.”
As a student, Sam says he was particularly impacted by Dr. Michalis Andronikou, who joined the Providence Music faculty as Associate Professor of Composition & Theory in 2017. Dr. Andronikou, he says, impressed him with the breadth of his knowledge of music from many eras and cultures, not to mention his own, extensive catalogue of compositions.
“I appreciate how Dr. Andronikou has challenged me, whether in writing quickly (not a strength of mine) or in encouraging me to write in styles I wouldn’t otherwise have thought to use.”
Sam, who plans to study botany in the future, also enjoyed the courses he took with Dr. Rebecca Dielschneider, Assistant Professor of Biology.
“To put in a little plug for the Science program, all the courses I had with Dr. Dielschneider were excellent,” he says. “She is very enthusiastic and knowledgeable.”
A unique facet of Julika’s university experience is that she got married in the middle of it. Her husband, Braxton Phommarath, played on both the soccer and basketball teams and has one year remaining on his Bachelor of Business Administration. Julika points out that both she and Braxton have been above-average students while managing to balance married life with spending time with friends and teammates.
“We’re happy to have started our lives together when and where we did,” she says. “We also had the opportunity to take the same Biblical Studies classes together, which brought out some good conversations between the two of us. We feel truly privileged that we were given the chance to learn together.”
Julika will shortly be departing for Brazil, where she’ll compete the practicum component of her degree. She looks forward to coming a teacher and coach in her career and maintains a passion for soccer. Sam, after working this summer, will pursue further study. Both have positive things to say about Providence to prospective students.
“Do it! Try it for yourself,” advises Julika. “If you are on the fence about whether or not Providence is the right place for you, give yourself a semester at a time and go from there. I was only going to stay for a year to get my teaching certificate, but here I am, graduating with a full, four-year degree!”
“One big advantage in my view is the small class sizes,” adds Sam. “I’m on a first-name basis with pretty much all of my professors. If I have a question about a theory assignment, I can an walk into a professor’s office and ask them, and they’ll spend 15 minutes helping me through the assignment. Providence also has a really nice Bosendorfer piano. With extended bass range. Just saying.”