A eulogy for Applied Communication at Camosun College

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I remember the day I was accepted into the Applied Communication Program (ACP) at Camosun College. I was painting fences on a farm in my hometown. There was a phone call in the farmhouse, and I ran across the field to take it. I had been on a waitlist for the better part of a year, and a place for me had finally become available. I literally jumped for joy. This was my ticket out of that small town: a two-year media generalist program with two co-op work term placements.

I had saved enough money to pay my first-year tuition and move to Victoria. With a part-time job as a server and the money I earned during the co-op work terms, I only needed a student loan of about $3 000 to complete the program. I paid it off within a couple years.

After graduating from the ACP, I was immediately hired as a graphic designer with an international currency exchange company. The skills I learned in the ACP were valuable in every job I held thereafter; writing, photography, radio and video production, website design, desktop publishing — I could do it all.

I worked at a newspaper in Alberta, developed instructional and curriculum content, managed a software training program for a health board staff of 1 500 — all on the basis of what ACP taught me. My fellow students went on to become pop radio DJs, television talk show hosts, CBC radio announcers, book publishers, newspaper editors, professional photographers and communicators.

Then I went to university. It was a valuable experience, and I would never trade it in, even if you gave me back the $40 000 it cost. But I am still being hired for my ACP qualifications, not the Bachelor of General Studies that Simon Fraser University (SFU) finally accorded me after four years of full-time academic studies. And it was ACP that gave me the skills to work alongside computer science majors at my part-time job in audiovisual services at SFU.

This is my ACP story. It is one of many. Every year for 40 years, a cohort of 20–30 ACPers went out into the big, wide media world. This year is the end of ACP’s long life. Last November, the Camosun College Board of Governors cancelled the Applied Communication Program for budgetary reasons.

Programs are cancelled all the time — what’s the big deal?

There is no equivalent program in B.C. It had a waiting list every year. ACP grads have a high rate of employment in media all over the world. The college’s new two-semester Certificate in Digital Communication holds promise, but ACP as we knew it — hands-on, media generalist technical training — is over.

So, I will simply say farewell to ACP, and thanks for all you gave me. Thanks for putting me on-air at Village 900 AM; thanks for the instructors who kept up with changing technology; thanks for encouraging me to write for the Nexus student newspaper; thanks for being affordable; thanks for the network of talented colleagues.

It’s too bad all the government talk about jobs doesn’t translate into solid funding for education. Without ACP, I might still be painting fences.

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