Where are they now? – Interview with Quest Alumna Jessica Pacunayen

Before coming to Quest, I was very curious as to what the graduates were doing, whether working, travelling or in graduate studies. I was nervous that the Quest degree would not be accepted, and that I would be wasting four years of my life. After experiencing the Quest program, and talking with many alumni, that fear has been quelled. Already in my year and a half here, I can see how much I have grown as a person, and have gained transferrable skills such as critical thinking and communication.

This is the first of a series of interviews with Quest alumni that will be featured on the Quest Admissions blog. Each month will feature one Quest alumnus, discussing their path from Quest and beyond. These interviews will give insight into the various experiences encountered by former Quest students whom have had time to reflect on their experiences.

My first interview was with Jessica Pacunayen, who graduated this past year (2014). Her question was “How does understanding beauty help us understand health?”

E: Where are you from?

J: I moved to Yellowknife a year before my grade 12 year and now I live there.

E: Why did you chose Quest?

J: When I first graduated high school, I made a choice between McMaster and Quest as my final two. At McMaster I was going to do medical radiation sciences – fancy program at a really good school. And then there was Quest and I was like LIBERAL ARTS AND SCIENCES!! And I originally was thinking, you know, I want to be a doctor – which place would make me a better doctor? Something really specific or something broad? And I thought, you know, Quest is so cool! You get to make you own Question, you can do whatever you want with it. I think that would make me a better doctor, and so I chose Quest. I’m not a doctor, but things change and life happens.

E: Did coming to Quest make you see something else that you are interested in?

J: Quest made me be more comfortable with not necessarily knowing what I want to do but being prepared enough to do whatever I wanted to do. So, even though I don’t quite know exactly how long I’m going to stay at this job, or what I’m going to do next with my life, I know that at least I’m prepared for whatever happens next.

E: What are you up to now? Did your question play a part in that at all?

J: Right now I work as a regulatory intern for the Wek’eezhii Land and Water board/Mackenzie Land and Water board. I work for a board that co-manages between the Aboriginal government, Territorial government, and the federal government. It’s really neat because you get to work for the Aboriginals and make sure that whatever development goes on they approve of.

As an intern I do absolutely everything from admin work, communications work, finance, HR, regulatory work. It’s been really neat. And actually my question has nothing to do with it… at all. But, the best part is that I’ve learned so much from Quest in different ways, like applying different kinds of skills like critical thinking skills, writing skills, communication skills, collaboration skills, that I’m not afraid to do things that I didn’t study for. I can do anything! I’m not afraid to try and do different things – it doesn’t limit me, which is really nice. And I’m actually really, really lucky because where I work is very collaborative. It’s almost like Quest if Quest turned into a workplace. It’s really neat to be a part of that right after Quest. So I’m actually really trying to apply what I’ve learned. Not necessarily the information that I’ve gathered throughout the years, but other skills in my job.

E: Do you think those transferrable skills are what you got most out of Quest?

J: Yes, and confidence. When I first started Quest I didn’t say anything, I sat behind everybody, I didn’t look at the teacher, I didn’t want to participate, and by the end of the year I was participating in front of the entire school. So, to go from speaking absolutely nothing to probably speaking to the entire school shows how much I’ve grown for myself and for my skills.

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Another one of Jessica’s favorite moments at Quest: her cabaret performance. She said that “it was a chance to have quiet voices heard”.

E: What do you think is the benefit of going to a small liberal arts and sciences university versus a larger university?

J: You get to grow in ways you never thought. Yeah you learn information, you get smarter, you work on academic skills like writing skills and presentation skills. But you grow in so many different ways when you go to a smaller school. You develop confidence you never had before. You develop friendships you never thought would be possible. It’s small so it’s not as intimidating to try those kinds of things that you maybe weren’t sure about before. With a big university you’re like “oh man, don’t want to present there are 500 kids in my class”, “so many people at the gym they’re so jacked I don’t want to go there”. But I hope that with the community here, too, that you can go in various areas.

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E: What was your favorite moment

J: Going back to Cornerstone [the first block you take at Quest]. I think we were reading Rousseau. We went on this hike and, first of all, I was flabbergasted because I didn’t realize I needed hiking shoes for university. I had to call my mom and was like “send me hiking shoes, I’m hiking next week”. We went on this 7 hour hike, I’m asthmatic, wasn’t prepared for it at all, I couldn’t even get up this hill for goodness sakes! And at the top of the hill [our tutor] Mai was like “OK, everyone disperse, pee, find a bush”. And so everyone went around on top of the mountain and we all peed in our respective bushes. It’s the weirdest thing to have at university but it’s so much fun!

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Cornerstone class

Thanks Jessica for taking time out of your visit to meet with me! We wish you all the best in your future endeavors!

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