Mom and daughter set to graduate together

When Joanne Roberge (centre in photo below) crosses the stage later this month at convocation with a Bachelor of Business Administration degree (with distinction), her daughter, Megan, will literally be on her heels, also graduating with a BBA.

Joanne Roberge and daughters-2Raising four children with her husband Larry, and working full-time in a rewarding career, Joanne was able to achieve her degree entirely through distance learning at the Mount, fulfilling a lifelong goal for this mature student.

Her passion for learning has never waned throughout her life, feeding her entrepreneurial spirit and drive for success. And her continual quest for knowledge is an approach that she has proudly passed on to her children. In addition to her daughter Megan (at left above) who also graduates this May, Joanne’s daughter Krista (at right above) graduated from the Mount with her BBA in 2015. Her son Justin is a corporal in the Canadian Armed Forces and her daughter Katelyn is studying engineering at Lakehead University in Thunder Bay, Ontario.

From administrator to entrepreneur

Joanne’s post-secondary experience began through studies in office administration at a business college in Halifax, and during the early stages of raising her family, she built a successful career in the legal profession.

She was working with a law firm as an office administrator/manager – a role she loved – when the family decided to move to Ontario to pursue a career opportunity for Joanne’s husband. It was at this time that Joanne decided to take a break from the legal profession, and with some encouragement from a friend who was well-aware of her zest for learning, try her hand at entrepreneurship – a food industry franchise.

She applied the skills she had learned and polished in her legal career to her business, and what resulted was a successful enterprise. Joanne knew the importance of consistent hard work and also understood the importance of work/life balance, continually working to create a schedule that allowed her to have optimal time with her family.

When Joanne and her family moved back to Nova Scotia several years later, her dream of entrepreneurship was achieved, but her thirst for knowledge hadn’t diminished. She decided to go back into the legal field, and it wasn’t long before Joanne was managing a lawyer’s practice at Stewart McKelvey, a position that provided an opportunity to master her professional and relationship-building skills. Still, she felt she had capacity for more.

“Once you make the decision to go through this… don’t give up. You need to embrace it, make the most of it.”

— Joanne Roberge, mature student and soon-to-be graduate

Balancing life and education

When Joanne’s daughters started attending university, she decided it was the opportune time to go back and finish what she had started many years ago – her post-secondary education.

During her time in Ontario, she took courses at a local college which she hoped to add to someday. Choosing the Mount was an easy decision for Joanne. Over the years, she met a lot of people who were passionate about the role the Mount had played in their lives. The Mount’s reputation was an important factor. “Locally, the Mount has a great reputation. Why would I not get my degree from the Mount and know that that’s my university every time I pass it on the highway?” The option for distance learning was also a driving force behind her choice. “The distance program, to me, was heads and shoulders above what other universities appeared to be offering.”

A source of inspiration for Joanne at the Mount was Dr. Karen Blotnicky, Associate Professor, Business Administration & Tourism. Through conversations with Dr. Blotnicky, Joanne realized that if she was going to dive fully back into her studies, she was going to commit to being her best possible self giving it everything she had. “What is the point of doing it if you’re not going to give it your all?” she said.

“I’m overwhelmingly proud. We experienced it together.”

— Joanne Roberge on sharing her Mount experience with daughters Megan and Krista

Of course, her journey wasn’t without its challenges – Joanne cites balancing life, work and school as one of her biggest struggles. She would advise anyone going down the same road to have conversations in advance with their families and those who are supporting them so that they understand the time commitment. “Once you make the decision to go through this and have these very real conversations, don’t give up. You need to embrace it, make the most of it.”

One of the greatest advantages of distance learning, in Joanne’s view, is the flexibility it offers. “To know that you can do your full degree at a distance was important to me. I’m in my home environment and can still be there for my family.”

Finding new opportunity

As a mature student, Joanne feels the biggest advantage of obtaining her degree at this stage in her life is the enhanced knowledge it brings, helping fill in the gaps and creating a nice balance between her experience and education. One of the last courses Joanne completed was on the topic of diversity and gender issues, “A course that really compelled me to explore these topics in depth, including how they impact our communities and our own lives daily,” she said. By the end of the course, Joanne realized how much it had opened her mind to learning about other cultures, an endeavour she will continue in her personal life and career.

As well, completing her BBA has helped Joanne recently achieve a new role at Stewart McKelvey, that of Manager, Sponsorships and Events, which sees her working with the business development client services department – a natural fit.

In Joanne’s words, “You need to take advantage of opportunities as they come. I do believe in the power of positive thinking. See yourself in different roles and doing different things – push yourself toward doing it. Life’s experiences that you go through – that’s the one thing that you can never take away from somebody; finishing something that you started.”

A proud Mom

Being able to go through university at the same time as her daughters was a rewarding experience too, as they learned from each other every step of the way. Joanne took great pleasure in the fact that they could support each other in different areas of their studies. “I’m overwhelmingly proud. We experienced it together.”