Two-time NSCC graduate, Wallace Donovan, has learned it’s never too late to change course and go back to school.
In 1994, Wallace completed the Culinary Arts program at Marconi Campus and later became a certified Red Seal chef. Working in his hometown of Ingonish, Cape Breton, Wallace had difficulty sustaining his career as a chef in a seasonal position. An ad in a local newspaper seeking chefs to work in the Arctic enticed Wallace to move there in 2010.
Over five years, he worked in the kitchens of a hotel cooperative organization in three communities of Nunavut: Rankin Inlet, Cambridge Bay and Pangnirtung. There, he experienced the spectacular sights of the Northern Lights, and local culture and cuisine, whale blubber included.
“I tell this to everybody, if you ever have a chance to go to the Arctic, go,” he says. “Words can never really explain how it is until you experience it.”
Although Wallace was successfully working in his trade and made lasting friendships in the Arctic, he was far from Ingonish and his family. “I love Cape Breton,” he says. “There’s nowhere else I’d rather live than Cape Breton.”
In the kitchen, managing service with a broken freezer, Wallace recognized an opportunity to work year-round, return home, and secure a sustainable career in a growing industry.
To him, it meant shifting gears and learning a new trade.
His employer had flown-in a refrigeration technician to fix the freezer. Wallace asked him questions about the work he did and was inspired. “It was when the light came on,” he says. “If I could do that kind of work and be home, there’s no reason why I would ever leave again.”
In 2015, he returned to Nova Scotia to stay close to his family. The same year, he applied to the Refrigeration & Air Conditioning – Geothermal Certificate program and began his studies at Cumberland Campus.
“What I’ve learned at NSCC over two different trades is invaluable. You couldn’t learn that stuff just anywhere,” he says. “I’m so thankful to have gone to NSCC twice.”
Wallace is also thankful for the guidance he received from his faculty instructor, Darrin Embree. “He felt more like a buddy who was helping you out. I can’t say enough good things about him, he was phenomenal,” says Wallace. “I’d go back to his class any day.”
A contributing member of the campus community, Wallace mentored his fellow classmates, acted as VP Communications for the Student Association, and helped organize the campus Movember campaign together with faculty member, Cheryl Veinotte-Mackey.
“Wallace has been a role model to his classmates, continually offering input during class discussions and mentoring others when in need of help,” Cheryl says. “Wallace is respected by his peers and truly showcases that one can return to school at any point in life and achieve success.”
To top his year off, Wallace is this year’s recipient of the Cumberland Campus President’s Award for academic achievement for his contributions to the NSCC community.
“Seize every opportunity you can,” he says to his fellow graduates. “If there’s something you want to accomplish don’t even think about it, just do it.”