Catherine Scott

PhD English alumna; Director of Foundation Relations, Heifer International

Catherine Scott“When I began my PhD, I definitely thought I would end up as a professor,” says Catherine Scott, a PhD English Language and Literature (2007) alumna. “I loved teaching. I still do. My decision to leave academia was based on several factors: (a) I never truly fell in love with the research side; (b) I needed to remain in Southern California due to family reasons, which greatly limited my job prospects in an increasingly competitive market; (c) I had spent years working in the non-profit world prior to graduate school and had a strong desire to return to social justice work.”

After teaching as an adjunct professor for a year and half at Concordia University College in Edmonton, AB, Catherine moved to California and accepted a position with Heifer International. She is now the Director of Foundation Relations, managing the non-profit organization’s portfolio with some of the largest foundations in the U.S. (Howard G. Buffett Foundation; Ford Foundation; Margaret A. Cargill Foundation). Last year, Catherine worked with staff across three countries to bring in a 25.5 million dollar grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. “I was drawn to Heifer because of their large-scale mission to end hunger and poverty; we work with resource-poor smallholder farmers and their families to provide them with livestock and training for increased income. Heifer seemed like the perfect opportunity for me to apply my academic skills in a non-profit setting and produce measurable impact.”

“I’ve often told my colleagues that I could not do this job as effectively without my academic background; I use what I learned in the PhD program every day. I owe an enormous debt to all my professors, but especially to my supervisor, Dr. Linda Warley, for teaching me the skills I use in this job. Not only was I trained to write well, but I was also given the opportunity to teach. In the past two years, I have led workshops in Nepal, the Philippines, and Kenya. It’s been both enormously challenging, as well as rewarding.”

When asked if she had any advice for current graduate students exploring the job market, Catherine suggested the book So What Are You Going to Do With That? by Susan Basalla and Maggie Debelius. And the second piece of advice? Gradually come to accept setting down your old dream and picking up a new one. “One of the hardest things for me was setting aside my dream of being Professor Scott. To my delight, some of my African colleagues refer to me as “Daktari Catherine” and that always makes me smile.” And last, but not least, consider your transferable skills. “Grad school has taught you how to defend an argument, debate with your peers, read and think critically, write well, etc. These are skills that can make you a valuable addition to the non-academic workplace.”

Affiliation: 
University of Waterloo

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