While she may not have coined the phrase, I often think of my undergraduate years at the University of Waterloo when I hear Joni Mitchell sing the line, “you don’t know what you’ve got ‘til it’s gone.” As I approach the fortieth anniversary of the start of my UWaterloo studies, I can’t help but think how that experience – both inside and outside of the classroom – changed me then, helped lead me to opportunity, and still contributes to any success I enjoy today. I am not sure that I could have anticipated those conclusions while I was at UWaterloo, but I certainly appreciate it today.
I studied biology at UWaterloo. This branch of science attracted me because of the hands-on experiences it included. The labs are what I remember most vividly, with the opportunities to touch and feel – and even to smell – biology. While all forms of university education can provide engaging intellectual challenges, studying biology at UWaterloo also reinforced for me the need to directly test and apply concepts in order to verify or confirm ideas and hypotheses.
At the start of my studies at UWaterloo, the idea of continuing on to graduate school one day was appealing. While several of my undergraduate classmates did go on to study biology at the graduate level, I ultimately chose to take a break after my BSc and go back to school “one day.” Well, after close to a decade in a small business setting in the consumer electronics industry, I finally decided that I would return to university for a graduate degree. By then, what attracted me was an MBA rather than a path in science where my studies had begun.
My MBA experience at Queen’s University turned out to fuel my interest in graduate studies even further. I went from there to the London School of Economics for another master’s degree. That experience convinced me to pursue a career as an academic and I returned to Canada to complete a PhD at the Richard Ivey School of Business at the University of Western Ontario. Throughout these graduate programs, I benefited from the scientific method of inquiry that we learned and practiced throughout my time at UWaterloo. I believe that my biology education provided me with a strong foundation for these graduate studies in other fields.
As my career in the academy evolved, I was attracted to administrative roles. Over the years, I took on roles as program director, associate dean, and dean. These positions included responsibilities for developing new programs and building teams to support that kind of growth. Once again, I leveraged the skills and sensibilities that my time at UWaterloo helped to develop. My education at the University of Waterloo, at that formative part of my life, developed skills that not only contributed to my success in subsequent graduate studies, but that encouraged sensibilities that I continue to bring to any inquiry or decision-making process in which I find myself today as a university administrator.