Leader in the Spotlight: Katelyn Trieu, Swim Star, Drama Queen & Film Fanatic

For November’s Leader in the Spotlight, we are excited to present Katelyn Trieu, a University of Alberta student pursuing a combined Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Education. In addition to being a Young Acting Company participant at the Citadel Theatre in Edmonton, Katelyn is also a swim coach and a lifeguard. Find out what triggered Katelyn’s decision to pursue the fine arts over the sciences, how she came to dominate in swimming, and which films are a “must-see”.

1. On your profile, you said that you realized near the end of high school that your passion in life was not in the sciences but in fact in the fine arts, specifically theatre and film. What triggered that realization? 

When it came time to fill out university applications in grade 12, I probably sat staring at the paper for at least half an hour, specifically where it asked which faculty I was applying to. Up until that moment, I had believed I was set for a career in the sciences- I was captivated by the endless amounts of research to be conducted, the ability to further technology and understand the human mind and body. But in that moment, I realized that my interest in the science field was nothing more than a fascination. I then asked myself, “What type of work would you be happiest doing, if all jobs were to receive the same salary?” This question helped strip away the issue of financial security and made me question whether I was pursuing a specific career for the right reasons. I was able to recognize that my true passion lied within the fine arts; I could see myself waking up and looking forward to go to work 30, 40, even 50 years from today, if I were to work in the theatre or film industry.

Every high school student has heard the following advice hundreds of times, but I believe not enough students listen to it: choose a career based on what you want and what your interests are. Don’t pursue a career simply because it seems like the right thing to do. If you were to pick a career, that one morning 35 years from now, you are still excited to walk into work and ready to start your day, that is where your passion lies. Your work should not seem like a chore; it should be enjoyable.

2. You’re pursuing a combined Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Education degree, majoring in Drama and minoring in English. What do you see yourself doing with this combination upon graduation? This is a trite question that exemplifies the success­-oriented attitude of today’s society that you challenge in your article “The Intimidation Factor”. Would you give a different response if the question was, “What do you see as your destiny in life?”?

My goal upon graduation is to teach abroad. I love travelling and strongly believe that exploring and experiencing different cultures helps a person maintain a healthy perspective on life and develop their inner values and beliefs. After a handful of years of teaching, if I still feel the innate drive to pursue acting, I will gladly do so. Ultimately, I want to leave behind a legacy that encourages others to better themselves as individuals, or to make a change that will benefit the greater good. In this sense, I believe my destiny is to provoke thought in others so that they will reflect on their lives and question, “Am I happy with the way I am living my life? Am I able to make a change that would positively influence my life and/or the lives of those around me?” Teaching abroad will allow me to combine my love of travelling and educating others, while expanding my personal horizons and hopefully create a lasting influence on those I will have the opportunity to work with. And through acting, I will be able to communicate with a larger audience through a popular entertainment medium, and bring attention to transcending themes and ideals that are applicable to everyday life.

3. “The Intimidation Factor” is a wonderfully thought-provoking piece that dares students to dream without fear of the mounting pressure to pursue socially “acceptable” careers. You asserted that we must define what happiness means to us individually. What does happiness mean to you?

To me, happiness means leaving a positive impact on those I interact with. Educators have a direct influence on those they educate, not only by the knowledge they pass on, but by the methods and attitude in which they use to do so. Through the fine arts, artists are able to convey a message to the audience that may provoke thought or discussion surrounding a specific topic.

If I am able to make a person smile or laugh, or even stimulate some thought that may change the way they view something, then I believe I have accomplished my goal of making a change (hopefully) for the better.

4. You swam for 8 years and currently coach provincial ­qualifying swimmers. What motivated you to go so far in the sport?

I began learning how to swim at the age of four, mainly because I was a very active and clumsy child and my parents thought that if they put me in a sport that required the utmost coordination, I would at least stop tripping over my own two feet. Shortly afterwards, I entered the world of competitive swimming and the pool became my second home. Even after I stopped competing, swimming remained an outlet, and the pool is a safe haven I could always find comfort in. Naturally, I began coaching to remain in touch with the sport and pass on to others the experiences and lessons swimming has taught me.


My teammate and I at the Regional swim competition in August at the Kinsmen Sports Centre. We had just won the top aggregate trophy!



My swim team at the Provincial Championships in August 2014 at the Kinsmen Sports Centre.

5. What was your favourite film before you started studies in Drama? Has it changed since then?

I suppose it is difficult to pick a film and single it out as my ultimate favorite piece, even for a short period of time because it usually isn’t long until the next film comes along that I will find captivating for a completely different reason. When watching movies, I treat each as a learning experience. I’ll ask myself, “Do I like this film? Why or why not?” Then, depending on the answer, I’ll compartmentalize different works in my head in accordance to specific aspects of the film I find to be fascinating or underwhelming (for example: screenplay, visual effects, production design, sound editing, actors’ commitment and choices, etc). On a less technical note, what draws me to a film is the issue it addresses and how the issue is being challenged or confronted. The Shawshank Redemption and Forrest Gump are two classics I have always enjoyed. New films I have added to the list since beginning my studies in Drama are The Graduate and The Judge.

PSA camera

On set while filming a PSA for the Government of Alberta.



Want to ask Katelyn a question? Schedule a chat with her today! Katelyn would be happy to answer your questions and offer advice in the fine arts, education and swimming.

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