An important part of the admissions process is reading testimonials by former and current students, parents, and staff. Dr. Deyar Asmaro, a former student at Robert Land Academy, was willing to discuss the value of his experiences at Robert Land Academy and how his time at the Academy shaped his life.
When did you attend the Robert Land Academy?
I attended Robert Land Academy in 2001-2002.
After attending the Academy, what academic and career path did you pursue?
After attending Robert Land Academy, I was interested in pursuing a military career but ended up going to college/university and became an experimental neuropsychologist. After completing my Ph.D. and two post-doctoral fellowships, I was hired by RCMP, the Canadian Armed Forces, and ultimately became a professor. I continue to conduct research with the space program and the aviation sector looking at human performance in extreme environments.
How did your experience at Robert Land Academy contribute to the academic and professional success you’ve achieved?
I wouldn’t have known it at the time, but my experience at Robert Land Academy helped to create a template in my mind for how to operate in professional environments and for how to effectively self-regulate without a need for top-down supervision. The leadership skills that I acquired at the Academy were instilled in me at such a young age that I went to what I had learned as a teenager automatically when under intense stress later in life. Having to employ effective interpersonal skills with a diverse group of cadets while acting as a House IC also prepared me for working with a wide range of people that I have met in academic settings (including top research officials in Canada and our former Prime Minister Stephen Harper). The valuable training I received no doubt helped me make the right choices when faced with difficult decisions at critical moments in my development. Furthermore, as I have gotten older, I have noticed that my capacity to tolerate stress and pressure supersedes the capacities of many of my colleagues, and this is becoming more amplified as I reach my 40s. I am not sure that I would have been able to achieve what I have without the values of the Academy and a desire for excellence guiding me throughout the years.
The Academy offers a holistic education, helping students reach their potential academically, physically, and morally. How did attending the Academy influence your development as a person?
Attending the Academy helped me develop in each of these domains and helped to create a scaffold upon which further character development would find its foundation. Without having an overt plan, I ended up intrinsically seeking to develop morally, physically, and academically without anyone telling me that this was what I ought to be doing. I can clearly see that my own desire for self-efficacy, competence, and independence stems from my experiences at the Academy and how I was trained to think. I used to hate getting my kit ready for morning inspections and, indeed, had trouble passing inspections at first, but as time went on, I mastered myself and my belongings and learned to appreciate the value of being prepared. I learned that if I am not able to manage and take care of myself, I would be poorly equipped to help my friends, loved ones, and broader community in times of need. I now teach my own students about what is required to lead and how to build themselves to be responsible and trustworthy members of society. Continued development in all three of the aforementioned domains has been an integral part of my personal journey and ultimately led me to being awarded a Vanier Canada Graduate Scholarship through the Canadian Institutes of Health Research during my graduate training in 2011 (this is also how I met Stephen Harper and continue to work with government-related research!).
What important values and life lessons did you learn at the Academy?
1. No matter what emotions you are feeling, see the course through and complete your objectives. You will have time to reflect on your feelings after task demands subside.
2. Very few people out there these days are properly groomed for leadership. Many do not get to have early life experiences in leadership positions like I had at the Academy, and I now know that the brain will develop differently if this kind of formative life experience does not occur during the right critical moments of biological maturation. All too often, I see people in leadership positions failing to lead by example, making unethical choices or acting hypocritical in their roles. This is in stark contrast to what I learned through experience and instruction at the Academy, and I believe it has differentiated me from a great number of my peers. I saw what ingredients lead to success, and I find myself trying to impress this on my students and trainees whenever it is appropriate for me to do so.
3. You cannot learn effective interpersonal skills and executive decision-making adequately from a textbook or from social media. There is no substitute for real-life experience.
What advice do you have for prospective students or families considering Robert Land Academy?
Do not give up, and don’t let negative emotions that you are experiencing at the moment (perhaps upon arrival to the Academy or when you are coming back from a period of leave) define your character and personal life story. I have met former cadets who were less committed to the program at the school, and their life outcomes were markedly different from my own. Parents need to lead by example too, and not let emotional decision-making negatively impact their children. Separation is certainly difficult, but it is part of life, and that is just one more bit of training that you get by attending the Academy that will ultimately lead you to being a more resilient human being.