Thursday, March 21, 2013

Meet James MacDonald, OBCC 2003

We are often asked for  first-hand stories from Alumni about their Outward Bound Canada experiences.  This request usually comes either from other Alumni who would like to connect with each other or from youth and adults who are looking into a first-time Outward Bound experience. To keep you all connected, we will be posting Alumni experiences more frequently and doing more to help keep the stories flowing.  

Today we would like to introduce you to James MacDonald, an OBCC student from 2003. Here is James' story:

I’m currently finishing my MBA at the Schulich School of Business. My background was in music and fine arts, but I found it way more interesting to merge my creative side with the productive aspects of business management.

When I attended Outward Bound Canada College, or OBCC as it's more commonly known (Formerly ISP), in 2003 I had just come from a number of years of struggling through your “regular” high school experience.  It wasn’t as if I wasn’t an intelligent person. I just found it incredibly difficult to care about the classes I was in. Furthermore the way the classes were structured made them even more disengaging.

With support from my teachers/instructors at OBCC, and through a number of very intimate and highly engaging activities, I was guided to solutions I didn’t know I was in need of. By that I mean, they helped me learn about myself and how to better understand the way I learn. Once they pointed me in the right direction I noticed I started to get better grades. I also found that, once I was doing well academically, I was actually enjoying learning for the first time in a long time.

Here’s an example, while canoeing through rural Quebec and seeing lumber harvesting practices I was a million times more motivated to write an essay on Canadian forestry then I ever would have been in “regular” high school. While reading a book can be highly informative it lacks the emotional motivation that I needed to be inspired to contribute my thoughts in the form of a written paper.

Once I was aware of my learning needs I was able to pursue the things I really wanted to. First I went to the Ontario College of Art and Design (OCAD) for fine arts and found that I was still a better learner than I had been before, even in a more traditional setting such as a social science lecture. Now, in a highly academics-based masters program at Schulich, not only do I still use the skills I learned at OBCC, but this program has also provided me a way to give a bit back to those who helped me at Outward Bound Canada (OBC).

A team of MBA students and I are currently working with OBC to help identify strategic issues in the outdoor experiential educational industry. My journey has come somewhat full circle. OBC trained me to learn well, I went forth and gained vital skills, and now I can use my skills to have a successful career and to give something back to OBC. I can say without a question of a doubt that OBC helped me turn my life around. They gave me the skills to better know myself, to choose any path I wanted, and to know that with hard work I could get to my goal.