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Grad profile: Leading and leaning on others
(Danny Abriel photo)
When Katie Haigh graduated from the Commerce program in 2006, it was a big deal for her entire family.
“I am a first-generation university graduate in my immediate family. I owe my love of learning to my parents. They wanted me to go to university to have opportunities they did not.” Now she’s earned her second degree—a Master of Public Administration (Management).
Katie wasn’t sure she had what it took to get one degree, let alone two. “My marks were not the best when I finished my undergraduate degree,” she explains. “I never considered myself master’s program material, but I wanted to move up in my career. A few terms of upgrading later, I was accepted, and here we are today!”
She was challenged from the first assignment of her very first class, MGMT 5135 (Managerial Economics). She was nervous, having failed her first attempt at economics during her undergraduate studies and “scraped through the second time.” She found herself in tears over a question that was worth one point. Confiding in her professor and leaning on her classmates led her to a final mark of A+. “Knowing that my classmates were also struggling was so reaffirming. It really is the people that make this program and I am so proud to share this moment with them.”
Katie credits the encouragement and guidance of colleagues in the Faculty of Management for her decision to pursue the MPA(M), and their much-needed support throughout her studies. She completed her degree while working full-time as an academic advisor in the Management Undergraduate Advising Office where she helps Bachelor of Commerce (Co-op) and Bachelor of Management students choose courses and navigate other academic matters. At peak times, advisors can communicate with hundreds of students in a day, but Katie is up for the challenge. As Margie Muise (BMgmt program administrator) explains, “Katie’s students are always her top priority. Her commitment to them is unwavering and an example for others to follow.”
Not only did Katie complete graduate school as a full-time employee, she did it while raising children. She gave birth to her second daughter two years ago, in the middle of her studies. Around the same time, her father-in-law became ill and moved in with her household so that they could help with his rehabilitation. Sometimes staying focused on graduating was a challenge. As with her first class, she found strength in her connections. “Start by assembling your support team. For me it was my husband, daughter and parents. They are the reason I had the time to complete assignments, and they acted as sounding boards.” Her husband completed his Bachelor of Education in May, so evenings and weekends were often spent in joint homework sessions.
Florence Tarrant (director of undergraduate programs in the Faculty of Management) says, “As a student, Katie demonstrated that grad school is not only a learning opportunity, but a path to personal growth and change.” Katie wanted to be a guidance counsellor or teacher growing up, and finds her current position is pretty close. “I’m just missing the summers off!” she jokes. For her next challenge, she hopes to move into senior administration and become a lecturer. She wants to share her love of learning and knowledge and hopes her enthusiasm for education translates to teaching.
Her advice for parents who wish to pursue higher education: “Just start it. Don’t wait for a ‘perfect’ moment or when you will have more time because that does not exist. The time you spend away from your kids will show them how important education is. It also shows them that hard work pays off.”
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