As the academic year draws to a close, retiring ETOL Associate Professor, Allan Derbyshire recalls one of his students who went from wallflower to wild orchid.
When Shannon McColl arrived at Mount Royal University last year it was a sink or swim moment as her class kicked off the year with an adventure expedition to Skaha, BC.
As McColl circumnavigated Flores Island in sea kayaks for about five hours straight with her fellow students and instructors, and scaled a mountain side, she quickly began to grow into herself.
|ETOL Prof. Allan Derbyshire says student Shannon McColl really came out of her shell over the last year.|
“She may not have been the most experienced student on the trip but she embraced it instead of shrinking away,” says Derbyshire.
McColl matures through the program
“Early in her Mount Royal career, (McColl) came across as being quite shy,” Derbyshire adds. “As her leadership opportunities developed, she became much more assertive and loved taking on responsibility.”
McColl has come along way since the BC expedition.
As a graduation requirement, students in ETOL are required to plan and execute an expedition of their own.
Derbyshire suggested that McColl lead a sea kayaking expedition around Espiritu Santo Island in the Gulf of California.
“I thought that was a good idea and began planning the trip last October,” McColl says. “I
came down with another student in January and we went on one of Baja Outdoor Activities’ (BOA) sea kayaking trips.”
McColl leading her own expeditions now
McColl spoke with the owner of BOA to see if she would be able to return to La Paz, Baja California Sur to complete her practicum. A month later she did just that.
During her practicum McColl assists guides and other staff while learning lots about kayaking, leadership and running a successful business.
“Her experience in the ETOL program and Mount Royal Recreation, in working with the general public, seems to have given her an increased self-reliance … she exudes confidence and an obvious compassion for, and interest in, others. She also has a great spirit for adventure and never backs down from a challenge,” Derbyshire says.
Though McColl’s skills as a leader are shining during her practicum, she credits the ETOL program for her success.
“The Ecotourism program has been instrumental in my development as a leader. Without the presence of the practicum component or second expedition I would not have come down to Mexico to work for experience only,” McColl says.
McColl is looking forward to leading her expedition to Baja in May and acknowledges the tremendous support she has had from the ETOL program.
“Allan Derbyshire has been incredibly supportive of me during my time at MRU. Allan's expedition last year instilled a great love of sea kayaking in me,” says McColl. “Without his suggestion for my expedition I would not have found myself in Mexico.”
The upcoming expedition to Mexico will be bittersweet for both McColl and Derbyshire. It will be Derbyshire’s last expedition with the ETOL program before he retires.
“Over the years, we have had many exciting expeditions ...The last expedition with the ETOL program promises to be equally exciting,” Derbyshire says. “It's the first time to Mexico with a group of our students.”
The expedition will include a challenging paddling trip of over 150 km in open water and hard desert conditions, but Derbyshire knows his students will rise to the occasion.
“As always, I'm looking forward to seeing some increased confidence in the students, and sharing their energy and enthusiasm,” he says.
Although the expedition will be Derbyshire’s final journey with ETOL, students like McColl will continue his legacy by paying it forward through his inspiration.
“Time and time again I hear of Allan going to bat for students and supporting them in their various endeavors and causes. I am incredibly inspired by Allan and have a great respect for him,” McColl says.
— Fred Cheney, April 29, 2010