Vancouver journalist helping university students with guidebook
April 12, 2011 by Kyle Benning
Going into college, Erin Millar thought she was going to be a music teacher.
Now, the Capilano graduate has written The Canadian Campus Companion, a guidebook on going onto post-secondary education in Canada.
The freelance journalist was president of Canadian University Press (CUP) during her time as an editor at the Capilano Courier.
“I really enjoyed [writing] and found my real calling [in journalism],” Millar said.
Millar, who generally writes feature stories, was the first person in her family that attended a post-secondary institution, and she said she learned a lot about the university lifestyle when she moved away from home.
”I remember I moved from Penticton to Vancouver for the first time when I was 18 years old, like everybody else does. It was really challenging. I didn’t know how to do anything. Cap doesn’t have residence, so I had to move into my own place,” Millar said.
“I didn’t even know enough about registering to realize that I had to register myself for English 100. I just sort of assumed I’d show up and I would go to my classes and my program was very set because I was in a very specific program. I didn’t even get all the classes I needed in my first year because I didn’t really realize the process,” Millar said.
Millar co-wrote the book with Ben Coli, her husband, whom she met in Thailand while doing freelance journalism.
“[Coli] went to business school at U of C and worked for a couple years as a property tax consultant and realized that what he really wanted to do was write,” Millar said. “I think we both kind of came at it from other sides, and I think that message is very much in the book to keep your ears open and follow what you really enjoy and it doesn’t necessarily have to be what you expect.”
Millar and Coli got the book deal two days before their April wedding. They started writing the book late, and their deadline was set for Sept. 30 so they could have it on shelves for this spring.
“I feel like the book is a lot better having written it together,” Millar said.
She said that there aren’t many university guidebooks for Canadian institutions and that her book, The Canadian Campus Companion, is the most in-depth university guidebook in the country.
After graduating, Millar found that her passion for writing and journalism was more tempting than a career as a music teacher. She was hired to work full-time by McLean’s Magazine helping with the on-campus website and the university rankings.
Even though she didn’t follow through with her original dream to teach music, Millar keeps her alto saxophone and piano close to her. Millar and her sister are part of a cover band that has been together for seven years.