By Linda Scales
Two impressive women will take their places as graduates on Spring 2016 convocation stages this month. But what many in the audience will not know about Leslie-Anne Barber and Lilianne Carrier is that they are also full-time uOttawa employees.
Leslie-Anne Barber of the Communications Directorate will graduate with not just one degree, but two. She is only the second person ever to graduate from the joint Civil Law and Masters of Business Administration degree.
She joined the University as a full-time employee in 2007, finished her first degree at Telfer (’09) in part-time studies, and moved on to the joint program that she completed this April.
The accomplishment is “a huge shift in my life,” she says, “because, for the first time, I don’t know what I’m going to do next.” She does know, however, that she wants to keep learning and to put her knowledge to good use.
Last winter, Barber also taught an undergraduate course at Telfer, and would love to have the opportunity to teach again. She says the experience was enriching but “much more difficult than I had anticipated. It gave me a new appreciation of all the knowledge and preparation that teaching requires.”
In addition to holding down a busy day job as a communications advisor in the directorate, she’s already steamrolling ahead with various plans. She is nurturing the new china rental business she recently launched with a colleague, she wants to continue learning Spanish and she has some landscaping to be done at home. But she is in awe of the free summer days stretching ahead of her, some not yet filled to the brim — a new experience for this perpetual student.
What advice would she give to staffers interested in studying part time? “Just take a course,” says Barber, who believes studying at uOttawa is just one way of bringing “us closer to the mission of the University. You get to experience what others are doing. It’s eye-opening.”
The Faculty of Arts’ Lilianne Carrier found her passion in Italy — in Como, in 2002, to be precise. It was her first visit to the country and she was frustrated by her inability to carry on the simplest conversation in Italian.
She returned to Italy two years later, but it wasn’t until 2011 that she took an introductory Italian course taught by Professor Cristina Perissinotto of the University’s Department of Modern Languages and Literatures. While working full-time, she continued studying, part-time, for six years.
Exactly 30 years after her first uOttawa degree (BAdm ’86), Carrier will be graduating with a BA in Italian Language and Culture. Her perfect grade point average of 10.0 means she will also be awarded the University Gold Medal for obtaining the highest average in an arts program.
“At my age (52), I didn’t think I could learn a foreign language,” says Carrier, who learned French and English as a child in southern Ontario. “I really doubted my ability to do well, but then the academic advisor in me kicked in. I told myself to persevere and not be afraid to give it your best shot.”
The secret to learning a new language and obtaining her degree is being passionate about the topic. She travels to Italy every year and is also a member of the Società Dante Alighieri, an organization that promotes Italian language and culture.
What’s next? Perhaps Greek and Roman studies, starting in January. “I’ve always been a very curious person,” she says. After retirement, she foresees staying in Italy for longer periods of time. Until then, she takes pride in being able to converse in Italian.
And to other staffers interested in studying, she says: “You owe it to yourself to try. Dive into it!”
Barber and Carrier share personality traits that led to their accomplishments, such as impressive organizational skills and a love of learning. They both also recognize that they couldn’t have earned their degrees without a team by their side.
Carrier says she’s grateful to her family, friends and supervisors for their support. Barber echoes the sentiment. “My bosses were a key part of making this happen,” she says, noting that she was able to arrange flexible work hours when necessary. “And my colleagues were my biggest cheerleaders.”