Gone country: turning childhood dreams into reality

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May 14, 2021
Most little girls go through a horse phase growing up. Julieanna Dunbar just never grew out of hers.
Living in Edmonton, Dunbar didn’t grow up in a farming family but she didn’t let that stop her from finding an unconventional route to working with horses. She volunteered at a camp with a horse program and that solidified her passion for the industry.
“Working with horses is just what I really wanted to do for a career,” Dunbar explains.
Dunbar knew that in order to make those dreams come true, she would need a base of foundational knowledge, so she enrolled in Lakeland’s former western ranch and cow horse program. As she prepared to graduate from the program in 2019, Lakeland launched its new animal science technology diploma equine major and Dunbar decided to take that as well. She is about to become one of the first to graduate from the new program.
“If I hadn’t done this second program, I probably wouldn’t be able to get a start in the industry. Like many ag industries, so many people are brought up into it and it’s already an established part of their life so it can be hard for people like me to get into it. This program 100 per cent gave me the confidence to do this. I was able to learn from people who are so knowledgeable.”
Dunbar found the new program expanded on what she had already learned, adding important elements that helped give her a broader understanding of the business side of equine operations.
“It’s important to go into the industry because you love horses, but you also need to know how to make money. We learn how much it costs to actually run courses and training programs as well as other financial aspects like expenses and what needs to happen to break even.”

First-hand farming

The equine unit is one of the six Student-Managed Farm – Powered by New Holland (SMF) units, which also includes commercial beef cattle, dairy cattle, purebred beef cattle, livestock research and crop technology. With the SMF units, students gain hands-on experience running a commercial agriculture operation that includes 3,000-plus acres, four cattle herds, horses and bison.
For Dunbar, that immersive experience was critical to her success in the program.
“I absolutely love the SMF format,” she says. “In this program, you learn the theory and then you get to use it in practice. You actually learn how to execute the concepts you’re learning in the classroom, follow through with them and apply the knowledge in a real-world setting.”
As part of her SMF experience, Dunbar helped establish Lakeland’s gelding and broodmare programs, as well as working with her SMF team to train and prepare five geldings for the annual Round-Up sale. In past years, the sale has been known as Beef Day and has been an opportunity for beef units to sell their livestock, and this was the first year horses were included in the process.
“It was an interesting experience and no one really knew how it was going to play out,” Dunbar says. “I think it went really well though. Our team had amazing work ethic. There were only seven of us so we all filled multiple roles in the unit and helped each other with other roles as well. We just kept our heads down and kept working and never quit, troubleshooting on the way.”

Heading to the back country

Now that her studies are finished, Dunbar is heading off to a new job at a guide and outfitting organization that does pack trips and trail rides in the back country.
“It’s a really good next step for me,” she says. “I’ll get to ride all sorts of different horses and train some of them too, which is a very marketable skill. Employers will be confident having me around because they’ll know that I can make their trained horses better and start their young horses as well.”
Dunbar’s dream is to make a career at the camp she first volunteered at, some day helping expand the organization.
For now, though, she has gone from a city girl opening her Lakeland College acceptance letter and proclaiming, “I get to buy a horse! Finally!” to riding off into the sunset to lead others on their own journey to discover a love of horsemanship.
“I’m glad I didn’t grow out of my horse phase,” she says. “There’s always something to learn from horses. The learning curve never stops.”
What Students Say
With the Student-Managed Farm you learn to be accountable for what you’re doing and the choices you make. You get an understanding of what it’s like to be out in industry or on a farm making decisions that count.

– Anthony Biglieni

Agribusiness Class of 2006

What Alumni Say
Lakeland College has been a integral partner in growing our own through the school of business. As an alumnus of the college, I have first-hand learning experience in the school of business. The professors welcome Servus Credit Union to facilitate classes in the Business Ethics course each year.

– Sandi Unruh

Senior Human Resources Consultant

What Faculty & Staff Say
Vertex has had great experience bringing on students from Lakeland College. We have found the Bachelor of Applied Science (Environmental Management) program to provide students with good academic knowledge of the environmental industry and the criteria that governs the land reclamation

– Sean Fuller B.Sc., P.Ag.

Vice President, Environmental Services, Vertex.

What Alumni Say
There is no way I would be where I am today without Lakeland College. It inspired me to be a better person and to get a job in something I love doing. I am so thankful I had such a great experience at Lakeland and I hope future students do as well.

– Danielle Gaboury

Business studies, Class of 2016.

What Students Say
I recommend the UT program to people all the time. The smaller setting Lakeland offers, is very conducive to learning. It's less intimidating than the larger universities and allows for more class interactions and discussions

– Kelly Mykytuk

2nd year UT student, 2017-18

What Alumni Say
Choosing to attend Lakeland College was one of the best decisions that I’ve made in my life so far. The welcoming and friendly Lakeland environment encourages a place of excellence, and fosters the ability to be successful not only in school, but in life.

– Mariah Van’t Hof

University Transfer, Class of 2015

What Alumni Say
I have loved my experience at Lakeland. The teachers are personable, and quick to share about their own experiences. They encouraged me to run with my own ideas and see what would happen; they got excited about my designs, which gave me the confidence to do my best and be more creative.

– Payton Ramstead

Class of 2016, Interior Design student.

What Alumni Say
At Lakeland College you are guaranteed to have time out of the classroom where you can put everything you learned together and actually see that what you’re learning is relevant.

– Alisa Brace

Animal Health Technology, Class of 2016.

What Alumni Say
The friendships I made, the experiences we were provided with, and the welcoming atmosphere of the Vermilion Campus made my time at Lakeland extremely valuable and memorable

– Grayden Kay

Animal Science & Agribusiness, Class of 2016.

What Alumni Say
Lakeland College was a learning environment unlike any other school. It allows students to learn beyond the classroom, and staff and faculty genuinely want to see students succeed. It’s a place where you can feel comfortable asking questions and where everyone has a place and fits in.

– Carson Reid

Agribusiness, Class of 2016.

What Alumni Say
The instructors were the highlight of my time at Lakeland. It made a huge impact on my college experience to have instructors who challenged, encouraged, and believed in me.

– Jessica Cadrain

Child & Youth Care, Class of 2016.

What Alumni Say
At the beginning of my first year, I was really stressed out as I felt I had no artistic ability. But with the instruction and time put in by the interior design faculty, I was able to develop my artistic abilities. Now I am fully confident in and exceeding well in the artistic side of this career!

– Naomi Mason

Interior Design Technology, Class of 2016.

What Alumni Say
I just feel like you get the best education at Lakeland, especially from the time that the instructors can actually spend with you. I like the class sizes too – everything’s been great about my Lakeland experience.

– Dean Coulson

Heavy Equipment Technician, Class of 2016.

What Alumni Say
I do give Lakeland College credit for reigniting my interest and even preparing me for Miss Rodeo Canada. Lakeland helped me to grow enough to have the confidence to think I could take on that role and become that person. I think that I have and I am really grateful for that

– Ali Mullin

Agribusiness, class of 2014, former Miss Rodeo Canada.

What Alumni Say
I feel the professors at Lakeland actually prepared me for the profession. It’s impossible to be just a number here when there are 12 students in all of your classes. When the school advertised small class sizes, they actually meant it.

– Stephen Mark Visser

Real Estate Appraisal and Assessment, Class of 2016.

What Alumni Say
I was involved in the president’s gala in April where I was an emcee for the evening, it was a great experience, and I had a lot of fun doing it and would recommend it to everyone.”

– Lucas Tetreault

HOPE Power Engineering, Class of 2017.

What Alumni Say
I would recommend Lakeland College for the simple fact that it's for everybody. As a mature student who went back to school much later than his 18th year, I was immediately accepted, and not ostracized in the least

– Donald James Shaw

Accounting Major, Class of 2016.

What Alumni Say
All the hands-on learning was great and very helpful once placed into the industry. Having clients leave with a smile after each service assured me that I was in the right field of work. I would recommend Lakeland to anyone.

– Courtnee Coolidge

Esthetician, Class of 2016.

What Alumni Say
The professors care so much about their students at Lakeland and are able to know each and every one of them by name, so much so that they are able to nominate a ton of students for awards.

– Stephanie Wakefeild

University Transfer, Class of 2016.

What Alumni Say
They really put you in the lead at Lakeland. Lakeland cares about its students, empowers them, and gives them opportunities to achieve their goals. I don’t see Lakeland as a stepping stone or a first step – I see it as a bridge and an integral part of my education.

– Alyssa Wells

University Transfer, Class of 2017.

What Alumni Say
I wanted to get experience in the field of assessment as it would give me exposure to what it’s like day to day. It was an invaluable experience as I find it hard to imagine what it would be like working in a particular field or area until I’m doing the work.

– Sheldon Farrell

Real estate appraisal and assessment, Class of 2017.

What Alumni Say
In the campus spa, they give you time to work with each client so nothing is rushed and you’re able to concentrate on providing the best service you can to your client.

– Daphney Couturier

Esthetician, Class of 2017.

What Alumni Say
It’s going to be a lot easier to start our first jobs having this experience and having been able to build our confidence in the campus spa. I love that we get to have this opportunity.

– Darby Watchel

Esthetician, Class of 2017.

What Employers Say
Lakeland is a great place to find employees. The college provides real world training that equips soon-to-be employees with knowledge and people skills that are highly sought after in the agriculture industry these days.

– Dustin Dinwoodie

Key Account Manager – Western Canada Arysta LifeScience

What Alumni Say
The hands-on field trips, quality of education i received, professors who are invested in your success, and all the friends I made. I exceeded my academic expectations and I also had a lot of fun. If i had to do it all over gain, i would choose Lakeland!

– Nicole (Audet) Pysh

Class of 2006, Environmental Protection & Class of 2008, Applied Environmental Degree