After living overseas for seven years, Mattila returned to her home province and raised a family in Saskatchewan. But once her children got older, she began to yearn for a career change. After talking to her friends who worked in health care, Mattila made the decision to return to school. Now a mature student in her fourth and final year in the College of Nursing at the University of Saskatchewan’s (USask) Prince Albert campus, Mattila is thankful for the academic opportunities close to home.
“If the College of Nursing didn’t exist in Prince Albert, I wouldn’t be in university, it’s as simple as that,” said Mattila. “So many aspects of my life are here and if I had to go elsewhere for school there is no way I could make it work otherwise.”
It’s a sentiment echoed by Cathy Maruschak. Also a fourth-year nursing student, the drive to continue her education in her home community is one that is both career-oriented and comforting. Having previously attended classes in Saskatoon, studying and working in Prince Albert has also allowed her a chance to build the skills she needed to move forward in her career.
“Attending classes here kept me close to my family, and that is something I consider very important,” said Maruschak, who previously worked in health care.
Currently immersed in a practicum in home care, Maruschak said being able to move freely helps her get to her classes.
“It’s not as big of a centre, and the class size felt right for me. Also, things such as parking are more accessible,” adds Maruschak. “It feels like you can keep your independence a little more as a student. And, of course, I plan on staying once I graduate. This is my community, and I’m happy to stay and continue working here.”
In addition to the nursing courses in Prince Albert, USask offers a wide range of classes in fields including medicine, arts and science, education, as well as introductory courses in agriculture and bioresources, kinesiology, and nutrition.
Students attending classes at one of the three locations in Prince Albert—the largest off-campus program in Saskatchewan—also have access to the same entrance scholarships as those studying at the Saskatoon campus, with the added bonus of taking classes in a more intimate setting.
And, as part of the planned expansion and centralization of the Prince Albert campus, those student opportunities are only going to increase. In March of 2018, USask announced the purchase of a new building in Prince Albert as part of the development of a northern strategy. The property, located in the city’s downtown near the North Saskatchewan River, will be renovated to include new classrooms, offices, lab facilities and common gathering areas, and is expected to be operational by the fall of 2020.
There is also optimism that the new campus could help aid the charge for a revitalized downtown, with an increased student population frequenting the area. During the 2017/2018 academic year, 324 students took USask classes in Prince Albert.
Although she is looking forward to graduating in 2019, Mattila said she is also excited to see the changes taking place on her home campus.
“I’m so excited for our future students to work in this new building,” she said. “When I was beginning in this program, the expectations felt so huge to me. I was scared, and thought ‘why am I doing this?’ It’s one of the challenges of being an older student. But if you can get through those scary moments it gives you an advantage, and I think this campus helps with those moments.”