How the Bachelor of Behavioural Science program sparked a change in career for one Humber College student

This story is sponsored by Humber College.


Kelsi Smirlies always knew she wanted to help others but was unsure of what form that would take. However, after discovering a program at a nearby college that piqued her interest, she gained the motivation she needed to return to school as a mature student. 

“Immediately after graduating high school, I enrolled in a music program at a nearby college because we were being encouraged to just pick something. But it ended up not working for me and I felt really lost,” says Smirlies, now a fourth-year student at Humber College. “My mom actually found the Behavioural Science program at Humber and said ‘Kelsi, this is what you’ve wanted to do for your entire life, this is it.’ After doing some research on the program, I realized that it was the epitome of everything I’ve wanted to do. I just didn’t know it was a real program or career.”

Humber’s Bachelor of Behavioural Science program, within the Faculty of Social & Community Services, equips students with the knowledge and hands-on experience required for a successful career in a wide variety of community settings. It’s firmly grounded in applied behaviour analysis, which is a type of therapy that helps people increase helpful behaviours and decrease harmful behaviours. Students with a strong understanding of applied behaviour analysis can go on to help people change their behaviour to improve their quality of life. 

As part of the degree program, students will engage in a 420-hour practicum experience, where they can apply the knowledge learned in the classroom to real-life situations in the field. 

The profession of behaviour analysis continues to grow in Ontario, with increasing job opportunities. Graduates can work in a number of fields such as mental health, addictions, autism, developmental disabilities, acquired head injury, dementia and criminal justice. 

“There are so many different communities you can support, which makes it a great field for people who are empathetic, genuine and eager to connect with others. Typically, when you think about finding a career where you can help others, you think about social work and child and youth care. Behavioural science opens so many more doors. Whether that’s working with children or adults with autism, rehabilitating people with traumatic brain injuries or investigating criminal activity, there are just so many options,” Smirlies says. “When it comes to helping people, it’s the place to be.”

With her sights set on the end goal of supporting victims, Smirlies has a rather comprehensive plan for her career. She hopes to start by working for the province in a rehabilitation system or in probation and parole. 

Throughout the program, students will take courses in psychology, qualitative research methods, mental health, autism spectrum disorders, behavioural pharmacology, aging and dementia, addictions, organizational behaviour and more. The faculty members remain active in the field and regularly update the course material to include new research, emerging trends and controversies in the profession.  

In addition to encouraging students to harness their analytical skills and critical thinking, the faculty also offers support for those navigating course-related or personal challenges. 

“There’s an unreal amount of support for students at Humber, more than I would have ever expected to get,” says Smirlies. “During my first year in the program, I experienced a bit of a hiccup with my mental health so I had to take a semester off. I was so worried about falling behind and not graduating on time because as a mature student, I wanted to start working as soon as possible. But the faculty, especially our program coordinator, was so compassionate and supportive when it came to getting me caught up.”

Despite having to take a semester off to focus on her well-being, Smirlies will still be graduating on time with the rest of her class. She’s incredibly grateful for the tight-knit community of students and faculty that provided her with encouragement and motivation throughout her journey at Humber. 

“There are so many reasons why I love this program and field. By combining proven science with empathy, you’re able to really connect with people,” she shares. “If you have a caring heart and you genuinely want to help people, you’ll succeed in behavioural science like nobody’s business.”

To apply for the fall 2022 semester, click here. For more information on the Bachelor of Behavioural Science, visit the humber.ca

For more from Humber College at NOW Magazine, click here.

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