Completing a master’s degree while working full time is a different experience than focusing solely on one’s studies.
For four Brock University employees who graduated last week as part of Fall Convocation, being a full-time employee and part-time student often meant shifting work responsibilities, balancing family commitments and leaving little time for social activities or personal interests.
“I joke that my education was my hobby — it was the only thing I did with my extracurricular time,” said Cassie Price (MBA ’21), who graduated with a Master of Business Administration (MBA).
The Manager of Venture Development for Goodman Group felt she was “a completely different student” while doing a graduate degree compared to her undergraduate studies several years earlier.
“With my MBA, I felt much more dedicated to learning because I knew I had to manage my time while I was doing it,” she said. “My supervisor and team were very supportive of me doing my degree and offered me flexibility with my schedule. I valued being in the classroom and the courses I was taking.”
Residence Life Co-ordinator Carolyn Hough (MEd ’21) treated her Master of Education (MEd) as if it were a second part-time job.
“I like structure, so setting boundaries helped me manage my time,” she said. “Every night after work, I’d spend an hour or two reading or doing homework.”
Despite the additional work and sacrifices that came with completing a degree, the benefits often outweighed the challenges.
Matt Clare (BA ’03, MEd ’21), Associate Director, Technology Enabled Learning, found that being a student brought clarity to his role and responsibilities with the Centre for Pedagogical Innovation.
“An academic understanding of education is invaluable to the work I do,” he said. “An MEd was an opportunity to take the knowledge I had developed in my work and learn much more from Brock’s great faculty and students in an academic context. Now I can engage with ideas about education technologies support and innovation with sharper eyes for what’s new and offers new perspectives.”
Like Clare, Teighan McIntyre (BRLS ’14, BEd ’17, MEd ’21), found she was able to apply many of her learnings from MEd courses to her role at Brock. As a Student Programming Co-ordinator with the Goodman School of Business, she interacts with intelligent and enthusiastic student leaders, many of whom are executives for student clubs. In her last year of the MEd, she wrote several papers on student engagement.
“It was interesting to apply what I was learning about education curriculum and leadership to an extracurricular setting,” she said. “Although I was in education, I had the freedom to research and write about topics that were really applicable to my work.”
While Clare and McIntyre concentrated their MEd on administration and leadership, Hough focused her studies on socio-cultural contexts because of her passion for sociology and her interest in examining diversity, equity and inclusion in education.
“I enjoyed the opportunity to think of education in a different way,” Hough said. “Instead of the administration perspective, I was learning more about theory in education and how the bigger picture affects the day-to-day.”
She often found herself in classrooms where she was the only person who wasn’t a teacher or principal.
“My profs would encourage me to share my perspectives and challenge my classmates to think outside of their K-to-12 classroom context,” she said.
Hough hopes to apply her degree experiences to her work environment and challenge colleagues to think big picture and long term.
“If I start the conversation now, it could develop into something that enacts real change in the future and hopefully benefits all students — not just students who have historically had access to and benefited from attending university and living in residence,” she said.
Price chose the MBA program because of her work within the Goodman School of Business and the relationships she has developed with the local business community. She felt a business degree would provide her with foundational business knowledge that would complement her science undergrad.
She especially enjoyed the diversity of her instructors’ teaching styles.
“I really liked being in the classroom and I found each class to be very different because it was dependent on the instructor for that class,” she said. “There was a mix of classes, many of which were engaging and encouraged participation. It helped me connect the dots on what I was learning in the classroom to what I was doing at work in my role with Goodman.”
McIntyre hopes that adding a graduate degree to her list of credentials will help her move forward in her career.
“I’ve always been interested in leadership and education together and wanting to look more into management roles,” she said. “More than this though, I just really like learning and see the value in education.”
With three Brock degrees completed, McIntyre jokes she will likely take another course or degree soon while she is on maternity leave with her first child.
“I’m forever a Badger,” she said. “It’s been a few months now without classes, so I’m ready to start looking and learning.”
Price plans to take a break from education to plan her wedding and Hough is enjoying her newfound free time.
Clare has momentarily switched from credit-based education to participate in a pair of online courses on Indigenous Canadian history and Aboriginal world views in education in response to Canada’s first National Day for Truth and Reconciliation.
“In my major research paper, I acknowledged Brock University’s employee tuition assistance program as evidence of the institution’s belief in its academic mission and its employees,” he said. “I plan to keep doing my part to justify that belief.”