New CECE director looking forward to helping students dream big and achieve goals
In her career to date, Candace Stewart-Smith has encouraged the students she works with to define their goals, follow their dreams, and take risks.
Now she’s doing all three herself as she moves across Canada to take on the role of Director of the Centre for Experiential and Career Education at UFV.
The Centre for Experiential and Career Education (CECE) is an innovative, dynamic, and collaborative hub which brings community, industry, UFV faculty and staff, and students together to advance and support experiential learning, innovation, and career education. As the CECE Director, Stewart-Smith will lead a team that is cross-functional, dedicated, accountable, dynamic and responsive to students, faculty and the community. She will provide overall strategic direction for the department, manage its daily activities, and ensure that both align with the Integrated Strategic Plan, the EDI Action Plan, the SEM Plan, and other strategic directions.
Originally from Trinidad and Tobago, Stewart-Smith moved to Ontario to pursue post-secondary education. She began her career as a scientist, pursuing both a bachelor’s and a master’s degree in molecular biology, genetics, and biotechnology from the University of Guelph.
During her time as an international student, she experienced the welcoming atmosphere of the international student office, and decided she wanted to pursue work that supported other students.
“It was this kind of work where I felt the most joy and meaning in my life,” she recalls. A student affairs professional was born!
After stints working in different roles that solidified her passion for student support in Trinidad and Tobago, she returned to Canada and began to work at the University of Guelph with international, racialized, and first-generation students.
She then moved to Wilfrid Laurier University where she worked as an academic transition advisor, supporting students who were facing academic challenges.
She helped students find options they could explore to develop new knowledge and skills that would lead them to a career path that was meaningful to them.
“A lot of students come to university with preconceived notions and maybe family pressure about what they should study,” she notes. “I would work with the career centre and academic advising at Laurier to help them find a program that would use their skills, talents, and values, and bring them to a career that supported their purpose.”
Her role before moving to UFV was manager of the Centre for Career Action at the University of Waterloo, where she oversaw the graduate students, postdoctoral fellows, alumni, employee, and further education portfolios.
“My experience at CCA allowed me to visualize equity, diversity, inclusion, belonging, anti-racism, and indigenization within experiential and career education. I look forward to bringing this learning to the UFV community.”
When she heard about the posting for the director job at UFV’s CECE, she realized it was time to follow her own career development advice.
“At first I doubted whether I was up for the challenge,” she notes. “But I had a cheerleader who supported me and said ‘yes, you can.’
“We tell students all the time to look at skills and talents that have developed over time and how they apply to a role they are interested in. I had to say to myself ‘yes I can’, and challenge myself. I told myself that I was being given an opportunity, I have the skills, I just have to dig deep. I have been working with students and supporting them to dream big so I had to do so too.”
She is looking forward to developing strong relationships with her new team, learning about UFV and the Fraser Valley employment environment, and creating partnerships within and outside of the university.
“Our aims are all the same: student success. We can work together to ensure students experience nine dimensions of wellness, so that they graduate as successful engaged citizens, with a sense of meaning and purpose.”
The move will allow Stewart-Smith and her seven-year-old son to reunite with her husband, who is also taking a job in the Fraser Valley after a stint in Edmonton. They’re looking forward to exploring B.C.’s beautiful natural settings.