I’m thrilled to share today’s post with you all. In my fourth installment in The Path We Take series we focus on the lovely Jen Dundas.
I met Jen a few years ago when she was one of the facilitators of the International Camp Director’s Course, and I thought she was one of the kindest, most down to earth, clever people I had ever met.
Jen and the other facilitators were so patient with our questions an “anecdotes”, and she was just a wealth of knowledge that I wanted to learn more about who she was and how she got here.
I hope you enjoy learning about Jen’s journey as much as I did, and if you have any questions, comments, or just want to tell Jen how awesome she is, tell us about it in the comment section below.
- Tell us about yourself.
My name is Jen Dundas. With my family, we are doing a multi-stage through hike of the Bruce Trail (800 kms). I love dogs especially my 3-month-old poodle mutt, Trixie. I really like positive things and being places. I don’t like sitting in traffic and feeling guilty.
- How many years have you been involved in camping? (Camper/ volunteer/ staff)
Camper= 5 years (I hated being a camper!)
Staff summer= 11 years
Full time camp staff= 25 years
- What positions have you held?
Lifeguard, tripper, head of swimming, head of tripping, unit head, program director, program coordinator, camp director, camping manager, camping consultant, executive director, mystery shopper.
- How did you become involved in camping?
My mom went when she was a kid so sent my sister and I too! The summer I was 14, someone quit in the Doe Lake tuck shop and my sister (7 years older) said, “My sister is good at math!” and I started working at camp. That’s when I fell in love with camp.
- What was your “ah-ha” moment when you knew you wanted to be a camp professional?
No ah-ha moment. Thought I would be a teacher but nobody was hiring teachers so my Camp Director at the time said, “come work full time for me”. That was 1993. The rest is history. I didn’t know it could be a career.
- What did you study in school? How has it helped you in your camp career?
I did my degree in Recreation and Leisure Studies at the University of Waterloo. It helped my resume look really awesome for all my camp jobs. It opened doors. I didn’t really have a lot of applicable knowledge from it. I wish I took more business courses. I think people think I studied how to be a camp director in my degree 😊
- What was your “path” to your current position?
It’s like a love story. I was the Camp Director at Camp Couchiching for the summers of 1997 to 2003. I left because I couldn’t get pregnant and needed to do fertility treatments. I quit, moved to the city and tried to decrease stress. I didn’t get pregnant, was heartbroken I left Camp Couchiching and was broke.
I went back to work at the Canadian Diabetes Association as their National Manager of Children and Youth overseeing their camps. I became a camp consultant working for Autism Ontario and the YMCA-YWCA of Guelph and the Girl Guides. I then worked full time for Girl Guides as their provincial camping manager. Then the job of Executive Director of Camp Couchiching came up, I applied and got the job. I have never loved a place as much as Camp Couchiching so it was a dream come true!
Editors Note: Jen DID end up having a beautiful little girl, you can see a quarter of her face in this photo. 🙂
- If there was one thing you could have done differently early in your career, what would it be?
I would have looked for more opportunities to expand my horizons. I believed I knew it all for the early years of my career. I’m more humbled each year.
- What is your advice to a “shiny new” camp director?
Be the grease in the wheel not a part of it. Allow camp to be able to operate without your actions and movements but know it will be smoother with your experience, input, etc. This is the best gift you can give the camp because it assures the continuity of the camp if something happens to you.
- What advice would you offer future camp directors?
Go visit as many camps. You may think you’re at the best camp but you learn that everyone thinks that. Your perspective only counts if you have something to compare it to.
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