At first glance, a career in academia can seem intimidating. You can, after all, be surrounded by some of the best and brightest in their fields. But for those willing to take the plunge, they find a rich, varied work life that extends far beyond academic research and education.

But what’s it like working in academia? To find out, we spoke to two academic professionals based in Brandon, Manitoba.

Applying knowledge and experience

Dr. Gervan Fearon is the president of Brandon University, which has more than three thousand full- and part-time undergraduate and graduate students. Before taking on his role, Dr. Fearon – who is Canada’s first black university president – taught university classes and had worked in both the private and public sectors, including a dozen years in government.

He was attracted to the opportunity at Brandon University for the chance to work closely with professors and researchers, helping them link the academic and applied worlds.

“I have a really deep appreciation for any individual who is writing a paper that they’re trying to get published, because their tenure is dependent on that, and it’s going to be a culmination of so many years of effort and work. And you never know where that can lead,” he says.

On any given day, Dr. Fearon can assist students and families, advocate for post-secondary education, support the innovation and development of new products, and act as a brand ambassador for the school.

“I have a connectedness to the staff and the faculty members who are on the front line of the operation of the university,” he says, explaining that to support his colleagues, he has to apply everything he’s learned throughout his career.

“It’s actually quite a joy to do. It allows me to use all the experiences I’ve gained over the years, to really become a resource for colleagues and the university community at large. When you can do that in any job, it’s really neat and rewarding.”

Dr. Fearon believes that this feeling of fulfillment extends past the short-term goals of the university.

“I’m part of an institution. It’s not mine, I don’t own it, but I get to contribute to it, to something that plays a significant role in terms of the development of the province as a whole. For me that’s really motivating,” he says.

Being part of something bigger than yourself

Danielle Adriaansen is the director of public affairs with Brandon-based Assiniboine Community College, which offers over 30 programs in agriculture, environment, business, health and human services, trades and technology. Having graduated from the University of Manitoba with a commerce degree, Adriaansen decided to continue her education with a degree in web design from Assiniboine.

After several years working with the City of Brandon, she eventually returned to her alma mater, this time as an employee.

Adriaansen’s role is focused mostly on communications, but she also oversees the student recruitment and marketing teams.

“My role really aligned with my values and beliefs, because our work can create change for both the Brandon and Manitoba communities. When you believe in what you’re doing, it’s very motivating and rewarding; it makes it easy to come to work every day,” she says.

The best part of her job, she believes, is knowing she can make a difference, whether it be through the students she recruits, or those who graduate and move on in search of new challenges.

“My grandma used to tell me that education is something that can never be taken away from you, and I believe that. Education has a real impact on individuals, families, and communities, and it’s incredibly powerful to be part of that, even in an indirect way.”