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Making the Connection – Alumni couple finds confidence at Concordia

Posted on: Feb 10, 2014

In the one year since graduation, Joel (BA, 2011) and Rachel (BA, 2011) Kjearsgaard have been chalking up a series of firsts.  From new graduates to newlyweds, from new parents to new business owners, this power couple celebrated a recent visit to their old campus by becoming new donors to Concordia.

For Joel and Rachel, donating to their alma mater is a way to celebrate the unique connections they found through their Concordia experience. Having met each other previously through a mutual friend, it wasn’t until two years later that the two reconnected in the hallways of Concordia. The close personal relationships the two developed during university – both with fellow students and their professors – have followed them forward. It’s no coincidence that their marriage celebration included three Concordia alumni as part of their bridal party.

It almost didn’t happen, however. It’s funny how the strangest, most seemingly random connections can lead to those life-changing moments. If Joel’s neighbor, Scott Gamble, hadn’t pestered him so much he might not have ever reconnected with Rachel, the love of his life.

“I kind of fell into Concordia,” Joel shares as he describes how his friend kept pushing him to check out Concordia.  Joel had attended another post-secondary institution for his first year and was looking at continuing when Scott kept telling him he owed it to himself to check out Concordia to see what he was missing. With just a few weeks before the start of school, Scott’s consistent prompting (not to mention the offer of a place to stay) gave Joel the confidence to apply. “Scott was right. I found my whole life transformed by my Concordia experience.”  

Joel now runs his own property maintenance/management business – YardGaard Property Services.  He admits that people often tease him about running a business with a philosophy degree, but Joel takes such clichés philosophically. “I feel like I am doing what I went to school for. Managing people, organizing projects, setting goals and meeting deadlines – my Arts degree gave me the confidence to think through problems and do anything I wanted to do.”

Joel continues to share a story of a subcontracted job that went sideways, explaining that it’s one thing to be successful when things go by the book, but when complications arise it’s those critical thinking skills that keep you steady on the path. “Even when you appear to be hooped, Concordia taught me how to stop and see the problem clearly, then gather up your resources to solve it.”

Rachel, who majored in psychology and drama, distills this critical thinking ability down to its essence. “Confidence, that’s the biggest thing. It ties into everything. Whether you’re facing a long research paper or a work situation, you just remember ‘I can do it’ and it all works out.”

Having been home-schooled, it made such a difference for Rachel to come into an environment where all her professors – including favourites like Jamie Dyce, Caroline Howarth and Dr. Randy Ritz – don’t just know your name, they get to know the person behind that name. “They get it. Instructors like Jamie understand how busy you are as a student, and they help you focus on what is important stuff to know.”

This sense of family that starts in the classroom extends into the hallways and follows Concordia grads into the workplace. Rachel says “That family you have at Concordia is amazing. I wouldn’t be who I am without Concordia.”

When it comes to pinpointing the Concordia difference, it’s that intersection of curiosity and practicality that Joel and Rachel cherish the most. From the independence that follows from learning to do research to the creativity that comes with developing critical thinking skills, the Kjearsgaards draw on that holistic experience to help them balance their business strategy with the hard facts of finances and cash flows.  And now that they are running both a growing business and a busy family, time management has become the mantra in their household.

Being able to donate to Concordia helps bring it all together for Rachel and Joel, allowing them to stay connected to an experience that shaped their lives together. And despite all the introspection they enjoyed as Concordians, when it comes to considering a post-secondary institution their advice cuts through all the clutter.

“Don’t consider – just go. It’s a life-changing experience.”