One of the best mindsets a student can have in college is to expand their interests beyond their comfort zone. Geneva Calder has demonstrated throughout her college career as well as her professional career that there is always time to grow as a holistic person.
Growing up in Toronto, ON, Geneva followed in the same footsteps as her father when she decided to attend Hobart and William Smith Colleges to play lacrosse for the Herons in 2013. One of the things that led to this decision was due to the competitive infrastructure the NCAA has to offer. There are a limited amount of programs in women’s lacrosse throughout Ontario Geneva explained. The chance to play for a national championship was very appealing to the future point goal per game midfielder.
The tight knit community and liberal arts curriculum were two more distinguishing factors that appealed to Geneva. Not being pigeonholed into a major her first year at college allowed her the flexibility to explore different classes while getting to know the professors. Ultimately, Geneva decided to pursue a double major in Public Policy and International Relations while also exploring her other interests, such as sports broadcasting, journalism, and law. Although her interests were not the central focus point of her studies, student jobs such as broadcasting field and ice hockey games allowed Geneva to experience the different realms of possibilities. Apart from her many jobs in the athletic department, Geneva was also a key member of the Student Athlete Advisory Committee, Public Leadership Education Network, and an Orientation Leader to name a few.
Needless to say, extracurricular engagement was an important part of Geneva’s college experience. “Something that is true at HWS and what reigns true in your professional life is that everything that happens to you is really based on who you spend your time with,” Geneva said. Expanding your social circles by associating with people that have the same interests as you will better help you grow as a well-rounded person and create learning opportunities. Why Geneva chose to be so involved was because: “it really let you explore other areas of life and be that whole person… The whole community including your coaches honor and create space to allow you to be who you really are.”
Of course juggling so many extracurricular activities didn’t leave Geneva with a lot of time, however, what helped her balance this rigorous schedule was a set routine. It seems an overarching theme among students is that the busier they are, the more productive they are. Geneva accounts a major key to her success as a student was from learning those good habits early and by managing her energy not her time.
Out of the many extracurriculars Geneva participated in, broadcasting was in fact her favorite and is still a prominent hobby in her life today. “It’s a world I really enjoy being around and something that came pretty naturally to me so it was a good way to use that skill and talk and write about things I’m interested in. I haven’t pursued it at the moment, but it's always been in the back of my mind. I also really enjoy live music and am always looking for opportunities to write about it when they pop up,” Geneva explained. Broadcasting the HWS hockey games was a terrific starting point for Geneva to explore this interest and the experience became all the more special as her younger sister was her partner.
After graduating from HWS in 2016, Geneva went back to Canada to pursue her Master’s in Global Affairs and International/Global Studies at the University of Toronto. There Geneva was able to continue to play lacrosse while picking up a ton of work experience related to her program, some of which took place in Thailand. A big appeal to Geneva’s program was international connections. Going to a place where she couldn’t read the street signs gave Geneva a unique experience that actually aligns with the work she now does with Canadian students and international volunteers.
For her capstone project, Geneva worked for the Ontario Telemedicine Network. This experience really gave her a new perspective on how she viewed change happening on a global level largely in part because her involvement displayed how change can happen through grassroots organizations and not just through intergovernmental collaborations. It became apparent to Geneva that “you can’t really make change unless you can come up with solutions that people are actually going to use, and to do that you have to sit down and have conversations with them.” Working with East African diaspora community members in Ontario, Geneva and her team would learn more about getting better access to mental health services in those communities where there is a large stigma surrounding mental health. “There are so many layers to it, but it was really interesting speaking to people in these communities and discussing some of their ideas and trying to find a way to implement solutions in a way their communities would take up some of these services. This experience really opened up my eyes to the grassroots angle and see how change is made at the lower level,” Geneva explained.
Geneva is now a Program Manager with Engineers Without Borders Canada who mirror the work she previously did with OTN. Currently Geneva is working with African business owners who are already doing important work in the countries they operate in. Opposed to traditional development work, where companies send people in to tell these owners what they need and do it for them, EWB follows the approach of listening to the business owners needs then to help facilitate the connections and talent they might be seeking.
At the moment Geneva’s role consists of a lot of leadership training and development with Canadian volunteers, which is great, Geneva explained. Talking about high level and theoretical issues continues her growth to make a larger impact where it is needed. However, Geneva is now trying to get back to municipal level change in her volunteer efforts, possibly to even get involved with election promotion activities to find ways to benefit the large ecosystem of change through local streams. For Geneva she feels too removed from the level of actual change that is seen in everyday life.
It is clear that Geneva has grown from her experiences into a holistic person who is constantly looking for ways to explore her passions while volunteering towards the greater good in her community. Reflecting back on her successes Geneva agrees working for non-profit organizations is a fulfilling career path that “allows you to do a lot of different things, which doesn’t constrict you to being pigeonholed into one narrow lane of work. You'll also learn what you like and things you want to avoid,” Geneva said. “My first job I really lucked out because I felt like I was making a difference right away and was able to get steady promotions each year and to have my responsibility grow, but I know that's not the case for everyone in this sector. The key would be to take advantage of every learning opportunity you can get and realize there is a lot to learn and that networks are important for moving forward.” Geneva does warn future students about the fickleness of the business. Grant money coming in can be unpredictable. The unfortunate part of this sector is that even if you are a great worker and have great relationships it is still possible that there may not be enough funding to keep your position. For students in general Geneva encourages them to explore their interests and to always be on the lookout for new opportunities to grow and to meet different people, whether it be from part-time jobs, to volunteering, to learning a new skill, everyone should learn how to grow outside of their comfort zone.
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