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Sharing stories is vital to new communications director

On , In College News

Sometimes the path you take isn’t the one you expect to find yourself on, but it can lead you to where you need to be.

Darren Giersch’s path has led him to becoming the new Director of Marketing and Communications for Northern Lights College (NLC), but it wasn’t the most direct journey.

Darren was born and raised in the South Peace, having grown up in Tomslake with his mom, dad, and brother. Upon graduating high school, Darren went to work for the Peace River Block News as a prepress graphic designer. He did his pressman apprenticeship and would hone his visual style and design skills there for almost 19 years, during which he saw the news industry go through some extensive changes.

“Ads were being built on computers at that time, but the pages were being laid out and pasted up on grid sheets, so photos were taken on a giant camera and the negatives were sent to the press to be printed,” he says, noting that he was able to learn and evolve with the technology used to craft newspapers.

Eventually, the universe would lead Darren to step away from the industry he knew so well to try something new. At the behest of a friend, he applied for and got a position with NLC as a Communications Officer in 2017.

Despite being new to communications, Darren was able to learn on the job and use his impressive photography skills to capture life as a student at NLC. He was often spotted around campus with a camera around his neck, taking pictures of events, staff, and other goings on at the different campuses.

“I got to do my favourite pastime as part of my job and it was great,” he says. “I was almost doing the work of a journalist, and having worked with journalists and seeing what they did, it took me a while to find my groove with the writing part, but capturing a moment in time with photos was really gratifying.”

Darren discovered he loved the storytelling aspect of the job; being able to learn more about people, where they came from, and what brought them to NLC. He says he learned to really listen to people while working part time as a bartender and was able to apply that knowledge in this role.

“I was bartending a few nights a week and got to hear people’s stories as they sat at the bar,” he says. “I learned how to ask questions and really hear what people had to say, because mostly, they just wanted to be heard.”

From there, he was moved into a Team Lead role, where he further developed his leadership skills while helping run the Marketing and Communications department. And when the director role became vacant, he was asked to step in as acting director. Darren spent seven months learning what it means to lead as a director and viewing the work the college does through a whole new lens.

“It was eye-opening, although I thought I knew what the director did, there was so much more work and conversations happening that I was not aware of [as team lead], but it was exciting to take that next step and see how the college operated at a different level,” he says.

Now that he’s in the director role permanently, Darren has a great vision for the department and NLC.

“I believe, actually, I know, NLC changes people’s lives. Seeing the faces of our graduates walk across the convocation stage and embrace their loved ones in excitement is a testament to their hard work and all the work everyone does for our students. It is these moments, along with the student journey that got them there, that we need to share with the world. We change lives. There’s power in sharing these stories, along with those of our incredible faculty and dedicated staff, which is what I see our comm’s team leaning into going forward. I would love for our communities to really know who ‘we’ are.”

The power to change lives goes beyond the students. Darren believes that the life changes NLC provides its students also applies to the staff.

“I can speak to the power of learning and growth, and having an employer like NLC provide the support and opportunities they have for me, is proof of the commitment for all who pass through our doors, including myself.”