She came for the ski hill, but she stayed for the community.
Karen Cathcart, originally from Sarnia, Ontario, moved to this small town nestled between the Rocky and Purcell Mountains in 2002.
“We came out here originally for Kicking Horse Mountain Resort, because my husband got a job there,” said Cathcart, manager of the Golden campus of College of the Rockies. “And I’m glad we did, I absolutely love it here.”
With a passion for education, Cathcart was working in Sarnia, co-ordinating and managing the hospitality and tourism management program and Lambton College.
“So before we moved out here, I had already aligned myself with the College of the Rockies, and I completed a masters degree in business administration at the University of Guelph,” said Cathcart.
She started off teaching at the college, part time with the Adventure Tourism program, and also business courses like entrepreneurship, marketing and communications. And then about six years ago, the administrator at the time decided to retire, so Cathcart took on the task.
“It’s neat, it’s a great great opportunity for me. I knew that it would be different because I wouldn’t be teaching anymore, and I absolutely love to teach,” she said. “But it gave me an opportunity to develop and create programming here.”
The Golden campus is one of seven run by the College of the Rockies, and out of the seven, it is the furthest away from the main campus in Cranbrook.
“So that brings with it lots of interesting issues. We’ve worked very hard with our community here, and we wouldn’t be able to do what we do here at College of the Rockies without the staff I have, and without the community,” said Cathcart.
“We try to reach out to our community on a number of levels, and at the same time we are able to give back to the community in a number of ways as well.”
The college aims to give students the education to either stay in Golden and become a contributing member of the community, or go somewhere else and have the tools they need to become successful.
“When you’re a community college, and you’re working with public funding, it’s your responsibility as an administrator to take a strong look at your community and figure out what it’s going to take for us to support this community. Part of the programming that we do here absolutely does that,” said Cathcart.
Their most successful program is the Adventure Tourism diploma, which appeals to local and visiting students alike.
“The Adventure Tourism Business Operations diploma program, has been running for over 17 years out of this campus. A few years ago we decided to go to diploma level with that program, and it was probably the best decision we ever made. That program is now on wait-list status, and every year we have up to 40 students in that program,” said Cathcart.
“The neat thing about that program is that we get very few local people, and that’s not a problem. It’s just the reality, because local people already do that kind of thing. They live here for that lifestyle. But what we do is we bring in international and domestic students from across Canada, into this community. And they’re here for two years supporting this community.”
Cathcart has been the administrator at the college for nearly six years now, and although she misses teaching sometimes, she is as excited and motivated as ever to keep the Golden campus strong and relevant.
“I have such an amazing staff here, and I know that if I had to be away they could keep everything running smoothly,” she said.
“I’m just so proud of the work that everyone is doing here.”