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Kindra McMillan's impactful role in education

'They all come to us with a common goal of wanting to help people and give back to the community in some way'
Photo provided by Kindra McMillan.

It comes down to being able to communicate with each other. That’s how Kindra McMillan describes what she feels is one of the main pieces of success for her students in the Community and Justice Services and Police Foundations program at Canadore College.

“The ability to communicate effectively can be one of the most important parts of a police officer’s job. Our students not only want to be police officers but also hope to work in institutional or community corrections and various justice services. They all come to us with a common goal of wanting to help people and give back to the community in some way. As educators, we can only do so much in the classroom, but we feel a big part of our role here is to help students also develop life skills. Experiential learning that helps students to develop their communication skills is key, and our curriculum focuses on helping students relate to all different types of people, and do it with comfort and confidence”.

McMillan is the coordinator and faculty member in the Community and Justice Services program, as well as a faculty member in the Police Foundations program. She comes to the Canadore College program after having spent 14 years at Nipissing University in their Criminal Justice program.

“Teaching is something that I really loved, and I wanted to do more of,” she says. “One of the missing pieces of that puzzle to be able to teach in higher education full-time was a PhD.”

McMillan says it was in January of 2022 that she “took the plunge” as an almost 40-year-old mother of two with a full-time job and a side business (co-owner of The Studio North Bay). She said ”I'm going to get my PhD because I feel like this is a piece that is missing, and it was a piece that was holding me back from a few professional goals. I enrolled, got accepted, and was then able to transition.”

What set McMillan on this path was an appreciation for sociology and law while attending Chippewa Secondary School.

“The Nipissing University recruiters came and did a presentation, and they talked about criminology, which was the marrying of these two things that I thought were really cool,” she says.

“I wanted to be a lawyer, but I entered that program and very quickly realized that’s not where I wanted to be. I tell my students all the time that finding out what you do not want to do is just as important as finding what you do want to do.”

While McMillan didn’t fall in love with being a lawyer, she did fall in love with research, and when she graduated from Nipissing University, she continued to complete a master's degree in Sociology at the University of Waterloo, where her research focused on mental health in the correctional system.

“In my role at Nipissing, I was also a supervisor for the Institute of Applied Social Research. We completed projects all over the province and the country for the Ministry of the Solicitor General, Correctional Services Canada, and various police services. I got to travel the country, completing field research and interviewing offenders at several correctional facilities, including every female correctional facility in Canada. It is hard to fully describe that experience. I feel very fortunate” she says.

“Through my PhD and my position at Canadore, I can continue to be involved in research. Canadore has a clear focus on making impactful change in our community and beyond through applied research.”

McMillan says her current PhD research focuses on the unique organizational and operational stress of police officers working in the north.

“We know that police officers have a really stressful job, but the unique stressors related to working in the north, and specifically northern Ontario, have yet to be studied.”

McMillan says that in addition to their involvement in applied research, one of the main strengths of Canadore College is the focus on experiential learning. “Students get incredible value from the relationships we have with several community partners, whether it is bringing them into the classroom, or having students complete mentorships, internships, or field placements in the community. Community partners also benefit from having students learning and working within their organizations.”

“Students can use what they have learned in the classroom, experience it firsthand, and apply it to a real-world setting,” she says. “The students in the Community and Justice Services program have the opportunity to complete a field placement in the final semester of their program. And while I think there's sometimes a bit of confusion in terms of what the Community and Justice Services program is, our students are there to learn about the justice system; who are the players, who is involved, how it works, and how could they make a positive impact, working ultimately towards a goal of rehabilitation. They also learn a lot about some of the most vulnerable people in our community, who may come in contact with our criminal justice system.”

McMillan continues, “So we provide them with the foundation of knowledge and theory, but then the question is how do we help? How do we either prevent people from coming into contact with the criminal justice system or how do we implement effective rehabilitative measures.”

McMillan says a lot of their students want to work with young people in some capacity. “We have been working with community partners, such as the Indigenous Friendship Centre and the AIDS Committee, to explore the concepts of restorative justice. The ultimate goal is to enhance the student’s world view and their understanding of the various populations they may have the opportunity to work with.”

McMillan says that these community relationships and the opportunities they provide students tie back to giving the students as much exposure as they can to allow those students to enhance all their skills.

"Students participate in simulation exercises and take courses in interviewing and counselling techniques, but allowing them to put this into practice is where so much of the learning happens.”

McMillan says students also get the important opportunity to work interprofessionally with students from other Canadore programs

“Canadore College is amazing about interprofessional education,” says McMillan. “We don't just stay in our bubble. We coordinate efforts with nursing, mental

health and addictions, social service work, etc. It is all about asking what we can do together to have our students work from different perspectives because the reality is when they get into the real world, being able to work well interprofessionally is where success happens.”

McMillan says watching the students work within these spaces and discover their passion for pursuing this as a career – or even finding another path -- is a privilege of her job.

“I have had students who started in criminal justice because they loved it and, during their education, they found their particular passion within the field. I have had others take a different path, but in the end, they found their thing, which is also incredible. My advice is to listen to your gut. It may take some time, but by exploring different options and keeping yourself open to new experiences, you can find what your thing is, whether it is in the field of community and justice services or beyond.”

If you have a story idea for “Jobs of the Future” send Matt an email at [email protected]

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Matt Sookram

About the Author: Matt Sookram

Matthew Sookram is a Canadore College graduate. He has lived and worked in North Bay since 2009 covering different beats; everything from City Council to North Bay Battalion.
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