Kirstin Jensen grew up in Niagara on the Lake. She attended St. David’s Public School and then Eden High School, here in St. Catharines. With a long list of educational certifications, there is no doubt that Jensen simply adores learning.
She graduated from Brock University with Bachelor of Arts, majoring in Political Science with a minor in Criminology back in 2012. She then attended McMaster University, in 2013, where she gained a Masters of Arts in Political Science, majoring in Canadian Politics and minoring in Public Policy. And more recently in 2016, Jensen decided to extend her learning to Ryerson University where she gained a Master of Planning in Urban Development.
Today, Jensen works as Secretary Treasurer for the Committee of Adjustment for the Planning and Development Department of the City of Niagara Falls. She is also the Assistant Coach of the Brock Figure Skating Team, who were recently crowned the 2017 OUA Silver Medallists.
When asked why Jensen chose Brock University, she laughed and said “not going to lie, I really didn’t have a choice…” She had always wanted to attend law school, so when she entered in her first year at Brock, she started the general sociology program, but later switched into political science soon after. Jensen decided to stay close to home to continue her studies and save money with the intent of going to law school.
“A lot of my friends also chose Brock, so it wasn’t a hard decision for me because I knew I would have lots of people to go out and hangout with. It was nice being from a small town, like Niagara on the Lake, and having a school so close by where I still go to have that ‘small town feel’ and some sense of community that I was so accustomed to growing up in a place like Niagara,” said Jensen.
Jensen gives praises to every single professor within the political science department, explaining how each had an open door policy and were welcome to meeting and discussing course related work, grades and learning styles.
If you met this spunky little blonde, you would never guess that she was never one for speaking in seminars. “I had one professor in particular that recognized that and she reached out to me to see if we could arrange another way for me to get participation marks because she knew I did the readings and was prepared for class but the not participating was holding me back.”
Jensen recognizes the connections that she has made with her professors and you can tell who has had an impact on her life from the political science faculty. She recalls her Law and Canadian Politics professor who made learning more interesting, so much so that she made it her mission to take his classes each year. Ironically, he ended up being her thesis advisor in fourth year.
“He was so approachable and down to earth, and just made it obvious that he was there to help us succeed,” said Jensen. “That makes a huge difference to students, to see a professor who isn’t just there to do his job each day and those who peace out once lectures are over, but rather ones that go out of their way to interact and offer guidance and assistance.”
While Jensen praises her Brock University professors, she recalls Dr. Henry Jacek to be her most important connection that she has made throughout her career. Dr. Jacek is a 73-year-old professor from McMaster University, who teaches Canadian Public Policy. He recently retired as Director of the Ontario Legislative Internship Program and is the second oldest professor still actively teaching at McMaster.
“He taught me so much about networking, reaching out and how to build connections. And honest to God, he could remember something about almost every single student he has taught for the past 40 years,” Jensen said. “He always suggested meeting with different people in fields of your liking, even if its just for a coffee, asking them a bunch of questions and leaving your resume with various people just in case down the road, they’re looking for someone and they remember – Hey! There’s that one person who took the time to sit down with me and now I have their resume.”
Jensen is a prime example of how living with a mental illness should not impair you from achieving your goals. “[I suffer from] a fairly severe anxiety disorder which went undiagnosed until I was half way through my third degree,” she said. “Never be afraid to reach out and ask for help. It’s not a shame to acknowledge you need help, that you’re struggling, that you think something might be wrong and it’s hindering your abilities.”
Despite her experiences with mental health, Jensen became a teaching assistant at McMaster, something she could never have envisioned herself doing had she been asked this while at Brock, discovered that was the breakthrough that she needed to confront her anxiety head on.
Someone once told Jensen to never make a plan for yourself. In other words, don’t set yourself up for failure. “Plans are like a stronghold. You can have goals, and dreams and ideas for how you want to achieve those goals and dreams, sure — but don’t put yourself in a set path that will be the end all and be all for how you reach those goals,” Jensen said. “Plans can fail, they can have changes and differences and not go the way you want, and that leads to disappointment. That doesn’t mean that your goals are over. There’s always other ways to achieve what you want. And sometimes, what you want might not turn out to be exactly what you really thought.”
“You have to do what makes you happy in life. The world is full of opportunities. Don’t set a path that is going to be the only way you can achieve something, just figure out what it is that you want and take it day by day. Your salary and your prestigious title are not what is important. What is important is waking up in the morning and knowing that you are happy with the life you chose,” Jensen said.
“And don’t ever be afraid of school debt! Education is important. Get your masters! Get your PhD! Get a post-grad degree! The debt will pay off in the future when you get that dream job that you’ve always wanted. Do what you need to do and worry about the rest as it comes.”
-Loredana Del Bello, Assistant News Editor