Master of Public Safety Student Embraces the “Challenging Opportunity” to Further Her Career

Master of Public Safety Student Embraces the “Challenging Opportunity” to Further Her Career
Master of Public Safety Student Embraces the “Challenging Opportunity” to Further Her Career

As an advanced care paramedic, Kelly Cochrane is driven to be the best she can be in her field. She was drawn to the Master of Public Safety program at Wilfrid Laurier University because of the unique ways it integrates into her day-to-day career. “It couldn’t be more real,” she says.

Going back to school was no easy decision for Kelly, though. Not only does she work full time, but she is also a mom of two young children. How would she have time for the demands of graduate-level education? In addition to that, paying for tuition would be a stretch.

Despite the obstacles, she jumped in with both feet and has been moving full-speed ahead since. Now halfway to her degree, she brims with enthusiasm. This is a “challenging opportunity,” she says, “that is diverse and truly applicable.”

On the Forefront of Developments in Public Safety

Kelly particularly appreciates the innovative structure of Laurier’s program content. Many of her classes have been brand new, taught for the first time when she was enrolled in the course. This means that everything she is learning is on the leading edge of new developments in the field.

It’s “very, very relevant,” she says. “We’re looking at stuff that’s happening here and now, and we’re able to discuss it.”

Kelly also likes how the coursework helps her to see different perspectives. The program gives you the opportunity, she explains, to work within all the pillars of public safety and with peers from other areas. “It really opens your eyes to how we can collaborate,” she says.

This kind of collaboration isn’t just theoretical for public safety professionals. “We integrate daily in our profession with allied resources locally and nationally, and even internationally,” Kelly explains.

When you “look outside your silo,” Kelly says, you can be progressive in thought processes and take public safety to the next level. Laurier challenges you “to look beyond the lens of your own scope or your own designation.”

How Going Back to School Has Worked for Kelly

Her day-to-day schedule “keeps changing by the moment,” Kelly says, “but it’s manageable.” One aspect of the experience that makes it doable for Kelly is the community within the school.

The professors, coordinator, and student success advisors have been “incredibly supportive,” she says. “They want you to succeed.” She could see their dedication “right from the get-go,” in the attention she received even before she applied to the program.

Kelly also finds that she can build relationships with other students—her professional peers who are all facing comparable challenges. They help each other. Beyond the demands of the complicated schedule, Kelly also had concerns about the cost of the program. Her diligent investigation into scholarships has paid off, though.

As a mature female student showing leadership in her field, Kelly recently received a Canadian Federation of University Women Dr. Alice E. Wilson award. She was also selected for a course-specific scholarship from the Paramedic Research Consortium of the Ontario Association of Paramedic Chiefs.

COVID-19 and a New Career Turn

After some time enrolled in the program, Kelly’s life took a new twist. As COVID-19 began to spread, she was called out to work on the front lines in a command chief position in safety response. Her husband, also a first responder, had a big role to play, too.

Concerned about putting their children at risk for infection, Kelly and her husband faced a crossroads. To keep the children safe, they decided to move them in with Kelly’s in-laws. Kelly and her husband embarked on “virtually parenting,” seeing the children only from a distance. Even in these complex situations, Kelly finds that her Laurier instructors are “very accommodating and understanding.”

People get into this program because they are dedicated to the field, Kelly explains. The faculty understand that, as working professionals, “students all have competing priorities.” She finds encouragement knowing that she can approach them with the challenges she’s facing.

Kelly looks forward to being a graduate of Wilfrid Laurier University in the near future.

Kelly Cochrane is a student in the Master of Public Safety program specializing in emergency management.

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