A few years ago, Mandy Smith-Haber survived a serious car accident that altered her life’s course and ultimately lead her to Yorkville University in pursuit of a new passion.
It was in that fateful crash that the 43-year-old single mom of two boys sustained injuries that prevented her from continuing her previous career as a dental assistant.
But the Calgary native refused to let her misfortune limit or define her, she simply chose to walk a different – and ultimately more fulfilling – career path instead.
“Life dealt me a certain hand and there wasn’t any other option but to find something else, so I went back to things I was passionate about – and I really have an affinity and a need to help people,” Smith-Haber said of her mid-life career shift.
That’s when she discovered Yorkville’s Masters of Arts in Counselling Psychology (MACP) – the online degree program she graduated from during Yorkville’s biennial convocation ceremony in Fredericton in June 2019.
With two busy young boys at home, Smith-Haber knew she wouldn’t be able to juggle the demands of a regular, in-class program, but Yorkville’s online offerings provided her with the flexibility she needed to succeed, she said.
“For myself, had I been in a traditional program, I likely would not have been able to complete my degree with the demands of my life,” she said, noting that, while demanding, Yorkville’s online program also proved very accessible.
“For me, having not being in school for so long, it was a little bit scary and a little bit overwhelming at first trying to juggle single-mom life as well as recovering from this car accident. But it was a really, really incredible experience.”
Helping her along in that journey, Smith-Haber said, was Yorkville’s encouraging team of staff and faculty – everyone from the admissions advisor who helped her successfully apply to the MACP program, to the support staff who patiently answered her tech-related questions, to the professors who helped her navigate her studies online.
“The school was beyond supportive, the profs were great, and the support at YU was wonderful. They really eased my anxiety and supported me through any glitches that came up,” she said.
“It’s fantastic to be able to do your studies and attend to them as you can, rather than feeling this enormous pressure to be in an actual brick-and-mortar classroom.”
Now that’s she’s fully graduated from Yorkville’s MACP program, Smith-Haber said she’s now working towards fulfilling her requirements to become a registered psychologist in Alberta.
To do so, she’ll return to the Calgary Counselling Centre where she completed her Yorkville practicum.
“I get to jump right back into helping people there, which I’m really excited about. Ultimately, I’m not sure what the future holds, but I’m looking at my options…I’ve learned to be very open to opportunities,” she said, noting her confidence in the fact that, wherever she winds up, Yorkville has given her the foundation she needs to make a difference in people’s lives.
“Having this program and the richness of the content behind it is really, really helpful…especially with being able to work with people and support them as they’re working on themselves and whatever challenges they’re facing. It’s so rewarding and inspiring to see where people can come from despite the adversity and challenges everyone faces.”
As for her own story of overcoming adversity, Smith-Haber said she’s perhaps most proud of the model of resilience she’s been able to set for her two young boys, Caleb, 14, and Zane, 12.
“One of the things I’m most excited about with completing this degree is providing them an example of, even when life throws you some adversity and some challenges along the way, (being able to overcome that) adversity is an incredible superpower that most people have, but few tap into,” she said, crediting her kids for their unwavering support of her in her studies.
“Coming to this convocation was really important to all of us to kind of culminate the whole experience…I’m so grateful that they get to bear witness to this, and hopefully it can be meaningful for them, as well, and inspiring.”