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Mark Villar

SFU Alumni
Communication 2023
Communication, Art + Technology › Communication

What was your most memorable moment at SFU?

There’s so many to choose from. Doing a science experiment in front of 200 classmates, staying on campus until 2 AM to work on a group project, presenting at the UGC, and watching the sunrise over Burnaby Mountain the morning after my first year frosh are a few notable ones.

But if I had to pick the absolute most memorable moment (though definitely a weird one) it would be the time I watched FCAT faculty members hit a watermelon like a pinata at the 2022 FCAT summer social! It was the first social event FCAT hosted after the pandemic. It was a day filled with good food, fun activities and socializing with fellow students and faculty members. It was nice to finally see people in-person after so long, and the fun was capped off with some games - including watermelon pinata.

What did you learn about yourself during your university journey?

I learned that I can be a very open-minded and bold risk taker. I arrived at SFU with a plan and fixed timeline of things I wanted to do and accomplish. Starting off as a science major, I was dead set on graduating in 4-years and going straight to medical school. Although I was stubborn at first, over time I allowed myself to explore other potential career pathways and realized I shouldn’t limit myself to choices I made before I even arrived at university.

I switched majors several times, not knowing or even caring if things would work out, but did so with the hope that each time I would get closer to finding the right major. I did five co-op terms with the mindset that the short-term sacrifice of delaying graduation would only lead to long-term success, and now I know exactly what I want to do with my career. I wasn’t very social at first, but I put myself outside my comfort zone and joined several clubs where I’ve met some of the greatest, lifelong friends I’ll ever have.

I’m now a big believer in aiming high and taking risks - it seems to have always worked out for me!

What are your plans after graduation?

I’ll be taking a short, but well-deserved break. I’ve been in school longer than I expected, juggling my time between studies and work. While it was all worth it in the end, it’s refreshing to finally not have the weight of assignments, papers and exams on my mind.

After that, I plan to do some traveling! I’ve been arranging a solo backpack trip to Southeast Asia for quite some time, so I’d like to do that sooner than later. I plan to be out there for a few months before coming back to Vancouver to launch my career full-time.

I try not to make plans too far in advance - the best things about my undergrad were the unplanned surprises!

You participated in a few co-op terms. How did those experiences shape your success today?

I attribute all of my success to my co-op terms. I really wouldn’t be where I am today had I not been a part of the program. Each term built on the previous one, giving me a solid foundation to work with now that I’ve finished my degree and will be looking to start my career soon. I received valuable work expereince, picked up and developed core skills, and networked with dozens of world-class professionals who all gave me insightful advice on how to advance and have a successful, long-term career in communications. I’m beyond grateful to Simbi Foundation, LifeSciences BC and IBM Canada for giving me the opportunity to learn and thrive.

Something that has really stood out amongst all of my terms were the opportunities to engage in projects I would have never expected to participate in. From leading fundraisers and event promotion, to developing a website from scratch, to project managing a group of Software Developers and UX/UI Designers to design and deliver an app. Co-op has shown me that a career in communications isn’t limited to just copywriting, editing, and creating content for social media. It’s a versatile profession with skills that can be transferred and applied to any industry as shown throughout my five terms. The opportunities are endless if you keep an open-mind and stay curious!

I have a clear vision of where I want to take my career, and I owe that to my colleagues, managers, mentors and advisors I’ve had the privilege of working with throughout my time in the co-op program.

What advice do you have for current undergrad students?

Slow down! Seriously, don’t rush to finish your degree as soon as possible. Life after school will come, but you’ll never get your undergrad years back. Take advantage of the time you have now to try new things, take risks, and think about what you really want out of school, your career and life.

Another piece of advice I would offer is to network. It’s so important to build and make connections. Attending events, joining clubs and talking to classmates truly made my time at SFU worthwhile. I’ve met so many friends and colleagues who have opened doors for me simply by putting myself out there. You never know where and when you’re going to meet the right person!

Editor: Kara Toews

Initially Published on the School of Communication Website: Three Convocating Students Tell Us About Their CMNS Journey