For the next installment in the Humans of Ace series we sat down with soon to be retired Jim Ketelsen, who occupied the manager for co-operative education positon at Vancouver Island University for 27 years. Although Jim has not held the manager position for the last year and a half, he has remained very active at VIU. As he nears retirement we wanted to recognize all he has done in the co-operative education field and get to know him a little better before we say goodbye to an incredibly dedicated and vibrant VIU employee.

Tell me a little bit about your educational background?

I’ve obtained my Bachelors and Masters Degrees, Sociology & Psychology, specializing in Deviant behavior in the psychology field. I even tried to emphasize Deviant Behavior in my M.Ed degree.

 You mentioned you’re retiring, any big plans for once you say goodbye to VIU?

I’ve got three more days of work!! Other than a month long trip to Mexico immediately, no set plans, I’ll just let it evolve naturally as I get into it. I know there will definitely be lots of running, biking, and kayaking in my retirement tough. I’d like to try and combine exercise with some leisure adventure, possibly run all the Rock & Roll Marathon series in 15 cities around the world.  I ran the Rock & Roll Marathon (half) in Las Vegas and it was so much fun.

If I work at all, it will be something totally different, maybe Disney World. Who wouldn’t want to work at “The Happiest Place on Earth”? I still have lots of contacts in Disney Corp and I have had to pass at some previous opportunities with them. One of the job offers was when I was 17 years old … I still regret, after all these decades, passing that one up.

What inspired you to join the co-operative education field?

You could say I kind of I fell into it. My first memory was that while I was in University, I wanted to do a project/work at a Juvenile Correctional Facility with a certain group of unique offenders there.  I knew the top administrator at the facility and had the project approved.  I went to my Sociology Department Head and asked if I was able to obtain credit for doing this, but I was told “No”. I even offered to write a paper on the experience and be evaluated!! I argued my case and they did relent a bit. South Dakota State University did not have a Co-operative Education model, I was only allowed to use my experience for one assignment in one related course.

When I arrived to Canada after graduation, I worked for a Federal Govt. agency that specialized in advocacy for disadvantaged folks but was very much centered on employment and education/training.  It was here where I began reading about learning theory and had the freedom to experiment, adapt, and develop all of my philosophies that align with Co-operative Education.  I noticed very quickly that my clientele (regardless of their hardcore disadvantages/challenges) were most successful when we followed these educational philosophies.

After working in this Federal Agency for 10 years, VIU was looking for a person to start-up and create the Co-operative Education model. You could say I was all in! I do have to admit that I thought that after working with all levels of ex-offenders for all those years, working with University students would be such a breeze, wow, did I ever underestimate that one! Of course, I loved it, and loved my students but 28 years, 4 months, and 29 days later…I’m calling it a career and retiring!

In your opinion, what was the most rewarding aspect of your job?

Assisting and watching people grow as human beings.  Don’t get me wrong, I think education is the key to success and much happiness. However, getting an education for a career is one thing, and getting an education for life to be a citizen of your community & the world is another.  In Co-operative Education, the education I tried to provide was for both.

I always loved watching students experience those “aha” moments … you know the ones, where they fully understand the connection between academic theory and how it is applied to the real world. Then also vice versa, reflecting on your academic education while applying it also deepens your understanding/knowledge of the theories/concepts as well.  Co-op Education/Applied Learning Baby!!    There are so many other positive aspects of the work we all do; we educate students on how to be successful with their academic education and in their lives.

 Do you have a most memorable moment with a student?

Too many to list. However, as I reflect on this question, the thoughts that pop up are all related to helping students with the most severe challenges or obstacles or lessons of life.

I asked every single student that I ever had “What is your biggest Dream for yourself?” After they got over the shock of this inquiry, they would tell me. After we would discuss and strategize, and begin the journey over the next 4 years. Big Dreams are never easy to achieve, sometimes taking decades if ever, but my most memorable moments were watching & assisting these fantastic people to have their dreams materialize after they left VIU.  I have always tracked and have tried to keep in touch with the majority of them.  I was honored to play a minor role in their success.

Sometimes graduates even circle back into a career in Post-Education. I have 19 Co-op graduates working at VIU now, that’s pretty amazing given the size of our University. I am especially proud of one graduate who is part of our ACE Community, Tanya Tarlit from Okanagan College, who is the Co-op Coordinator/Manager.  Tanya, and also her husband, Steve, are graduates of mine … both outstanding people!!

  If you could give your younger self a piece of advice what would it be?

  • Don’t Sweat The Small Stuff!! And remember, everything is “Small Stuff.”
  • Don’t let negative-minded folks pull you under to their level! Now repeat reading bullet #1.
  • Don’t work 70 hours per week, no matter how motivated or goal oriented you are!! You need a balanced life to be super successful and besides that, your kids grow up way too fast. If you don’t have children, then get a pet!
  • Take more accounting/finance courses!!! Really helps when battling over budgets with your Finance Department.
  • Don’t drink cheap Tequila!!! Life is too short!

If you could choose any novel, what character from it would you be and why?

Is this from the list of strange employment interview questions that we prepare our students for?

Since I’m retiring and not competing for a position … then it would be Falstaff from a few of Shakespeare’s plays. I’m similar but also much different, I’ll let you figure out.

And lastly … THANK YOU to all my friends and colleagues in ACE. I know of no other group of Post-Secondary Education professionals that are so fun to be around and so willing to help one another. I have appreciated you all and the support provided. I need to THANK all the Centre for Experiential Education at VIU, great Co-op/Internship professionals, and wonderful human beings. Keep doing your good work everyone!