There’s no doubt that students get a lot out of Carleton’s Enriched Support Program (ESP). But the one-year transition program that helps students qualify for university admission has had just as much of an impact on its facilitators, the student employees who run ESP’s academic support workshops.
“I actually slow-walked the last year of my degree,” said former ESP facilitator Marilee Campbell. “I split my courses over two years so I could facilitate for a second year.”
Campbell was drawn to the interactive environment in which ESP helps students acclimatize to university as she completed her BA.
Now she’s an adult education facilitator in Brisbane, Australia, where she helps mature students with reading, writing, math and learning skills. The content is tailored to be accessible to all non-traditional styles of learning.
“I use so much of what I picked up in ESP (that) it’s hard to pin down,” Campbell said.
Shaheen Lotun is another former ESP facilitator who regularly uses her training.
As a gender adviser for the Uganda Cooperative Savings and Credit Union Ltd., she helps ensure women get equal access to financial services in Uganda. She also works to empower women and communities through knowledge-sharing workshops in which she regularly uses facilitation practices.
“I work in a field where power and privilege are constant themes,” Lotun said. “I am much more aware of my body language and how important gentle eye contact is.”
Both Lotun and Campbell still use their ESP training in many ways, and sometimes even refer to their workshop manuals. The facilitation skills have helped them tailor content to a given audience, to accept feedback gracefully, and to handle difficult people firmly and with respect.
“My ESP experience was instrumental in helping me land a program co-ordination position with a non-profit in Calgary,” Campbell said. “That position directly led to the role I currently have in Australia.”
The ESP facilitators believe strongly that access to education is integral to an individual’s success.
Rachelle Thibodeau, ESP co-ordinator at Carleton’s Centre for Initiatives in Education, aims to arm each program participant with a set of study habits that academically strong students use all the time.
Each year, Thibodeau receives hundreds of applications to staff about 15 new ESP facilitator positions.
New recruits observe experienced facilitators actively working with students. In this way, facilitators train to offer constructive feedback by first learning how to receive it. A mix of praise and criticism, not without a bit of humour, can go a long way.
Brunelle Lewis, a business immigration law clerk at EY Law LLP, also does a lot of training in her career. Lewis described the process to become an ESP facilitator as unlike any she had experienced.
It wasn’t about who had the most commanding voice or who had the best answers in training, but how she and her fellow facilitators could engage in group interviews and collectively understand the answers.
“I can say for certain that the ESP interviewing and training process is one of the reasons I landed every job since then,” Lewis said.
Facilitating for ESP students isn’t about giving a student the answer but making sure the student understands why it’s correct. At EY, Lewis tries to focus on redirecting a question from clerks in training to see if they are grasping concepts of the job.
“Just because it doesn’t look like someone is listening doesn’t mean that they’re not,” she said. “I still remember discussing how doodling or other similar activities can actually help individuals stay focused. Everyone’s process is different.”
Carleton Now will profile several ESP grads throughout 2016 in honour of the program’s 20th anniversary.