|Degrees:||B.A. Psychology, MA Canadian Studies (Indigenous and Northern Studies)|
Karen Roach earned a Bachelor of Arts Honours in Psychology in 1995, and, following graduation, Karen went on to earn an MA in Canadian Studies (Indigenous and Northern Studies) at Carleton, graduating in 2004.
Karen currently works as an Indigenous Navigator with the First Nations and Inuit Health Branch (FNIHB) of Indigenous Services Canada. Karen supports the recruitment, retention and professional development of Indigenous employees within the Branch. In addition to offering support to Indigenous employees, she is involved in a multitude of projects that strive to increase the cultural competence of hiring practices, training and development programs within the organization.
Carleton’s Bachelor of Arts in Psychology prepares students to understand the mechanisms that underlie the thoughts, feelings, and behaviours of people. Such an understanding not only has theoretical value, but also the potential for practical, real-world applications.
“Experiential learning opportunities were the most valuable part of my BA. They provided me with supervised opportunities to put the academic learning I had done into practice with hands on work experiences. This meant that I graduated from university with both a degree and work experience in my field.”
– Karen Roach, BA Psychology, MA Canadian Studies
Do you have a favourite memory of the BA program at Carleton? A favourite course? A favourite psychology professor that had a big impact?
I have lots of good memories of the BA program at Carleton! The Psychology program offered courses by a lot of dynamic, engaged professors who inspired me to want to learn more about myself, and the wide variety of careers I could pursue with a degree in Psychology. In addition to these courses, I learned a lot from the many elective courses I took in other departments. These electives helped me explore what I might want to do ‘when I grow up’.
My favourite course was Transpersonal Psychology taught by Dr. Roger Wells. I took the course in the last semester of my BA and it added an additional layer to everything I had learned at Carleton University. As an Indigenous person, this course helped me to relate to the material I had learned by integrating psychology with the spiritual aspects of the human experience. It was a course that approached psychology from an integrated, holistic approach to wellbeing that was similar to the Indigenous teachings I was familiar with. This course encouraged the student to think outside the box and expand their thinking on the endless possibilities for the study of psychology.
Were there any skills that you learned in your BA that assisted you with your job? Did you benefit from a partnership or opportunity that is only available in the nation’s capital? What kind of experiential learning was there?
In the later part of my BA studies, I completed two Practicum in Community Psychology placements with social service agencies that provided support and programming for residents living in social housing. These experiential learning opportunities were the most valuable part of my BA. They provided me with supervised opportunities to put the academic learning I had done into practice with hands on work experiences. This meant that I graduated from university with both a degree and work experience in my field.
What did you do after your BA?
Immediately after my BA, I was offered a job working with the Carlington Community Chaplaincy where I had done my final Practicum in Community Psychology placement. I facilitated support groups and parenting classes, and offered support to community members living in social housing. This experience working with marginalized populations allowed me to build my resume. A couple of years later, I was offered a job working on Indigenous issues for the federal government. This month, I celebrate 20 years working for the federal public service on Indigenous issues.
What skills did you learn in your BA that helped you in your current position?
In my experience, a BA in Psychology can prepare you for work in a lot of different areas. Since completing my BA, I have used the skills I developed to work in marginalized communities, facilitate support groups and workshops, lecture at a local college and offer career counselling to employees. In my current position, I meet one-on-one with Indigenous staff who want to access development opportunities/programs, revise a resume or apply for jobs. My Psychology classes on motivation, emotion and personality prepared me well to work one-on-one with staff who may not know how to move forward in their careers.
The BA elective classes I took in Social Work and Sociology provided a solid foundation for my current job that applies an in-depth knowledge of Indigenous issues in Canada including the economic, sociological, historical and political influences affecting Canada’s Indigenous population (intergenerational effects of residential schools, the 60s scoop, Indigenous peoples involvement in the child welfare system, etc.).
Do you have any advice for any students thinking of doing a BA in Psychology at Carleton?
I would say that a BA in Psychology is one of the few degrees that is beneficial in a multitude of professional areas and is also extremely useful in your personal life. You’d be surprised what you remember from university when your child isn’t reaching developmental milestones or your teenager is rebelling. I would advise students thinking about a BA in Psychology at Carleton to be brave and take chances. If I can do it as an adult learner with a small child, anyone can succeed! Go at your own pace, it isn’t a race to get finished. Enjoy your studies and use your time at university to challenge the way you think about yourself and your place in the world. University is your time to explore!