Campus Life

Going the distance to realize a dream

Story courtesy of the University of Calgary

The roads between Lethbridge and Calgary can be many things – long, flat, lonely, treacherous, and, at times, one of the most peaceful, beautiful places in the world to be.

Counselling Services manager, Mark Slomp, completes his PhD at the University of Calgary.

For most of us, it’s a journey we don’t make very often.

But for Mark Slomp (MEd '06), that trip became a weekly occurrence – through wind and rain and snow and fog, sunshine and darkness; through all four seasons, he made the trek to the University of Calgary’s Werklund School of Education from his home in Lethbridge without fail.

That takes a certain type of commitment on the part of the student, but Slomp will be the first to say he didn’t do it alone.

“Pursuing your dreams is rarely romantic,” he says. “In my experience, it has involved a great deal of sacrifice, on the part of many, including my wife Jennifer, and our five children. It also takes hard work.”

With his MEd in Counselling Psychology (which he received from the University of Lethbridge in 2006), Slomp signed on as a psychologist at the U of L, where today he is the Acting Manager of Counselling Services, working with young people at critical stages in their lives. “I enjoy hearing their stories and I love supporting them as they work to construct a healthy foundation for flourishing in their lives and careers.”

Slomp, who received his PhD in Curriculum, Teaching and Learning in June 2014 at the University of Calgary, focused his research on how career services for students in the K-12 educational system might be improved. “I was drawn to this research because I am interested in developing programs that assist people at any stage in life in constructing good lives for themselves – lives in which they are able to give the best of themselves as they meet the needs of others.”

Slomp chose Werklund’s Graduate Programs in Education because of the flexibility it afforded him. Since his weekly classes were held in the evenings, he was able to live in the Lethbridge area, maintain his job, and continue to work with students.

That’s not to say Slomp didn’t face some challenges. Between the commute, the course and thesis work, maintaining a regular work schedule and the responsibilities of family life, he says he had to work to find a balance.

“My son’s high school basketball game wasn’t going to stop just because I was doing a PhD,” he laughs. “But seriously, I was able to complete my degree in a way that did not disrupt my family. I didn’t want the pursuit of my goals to negatively impact my wife and children. By being able to remain in the Lethbridge area while I completed my doctorate, there was very little disruption to our family and life was able to go on as usual.”

And Slomp has some important words of advice to others who are considering this path to a PhD.

“Find a supervisor who is a good match for you, who is genuinely interested in helping you advance your professional goals and will work with you in an atmosphere of respect, care, understanding and generosity of spirit. I had such a supervisor in Dr. Nancy Arthur, and as a result, the process became so much easier and my challenging goals and dreams became attainable."