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One step at a time

Memorial employee and master of arts graduate savours crossing the finish line

special feature: Class of 2023

The Gazette’s latest special feature celebrates Memorial’s newest alumni.

By Jeff Green

Slowly but surely.

It’s been Karen Follett’s mantra for the past three years as she worked towards a master of arts degree in political science.

The self-described lifelong learner embraced the imperfect balance of working full time, parenting two young children and heading back to university during a pandemic.

When the dust settled after the pivot to remote work, lockdowns and various alert levels, Ms. Follett took the plunge.

Turns out, it was a welcome fresh start.

Every experience is temporary

“My kids started Grades One and Three as I started my first semester — we all went back to school together,” said Ms. Follett, who grew up in St. John’s and has worked at Memorial for the past 15 years.

She is currently a policy advisor with the Office of the Vice-President (Research).

“I had to let go of what I thought being a grad student “should” be like.” — Karen Follett

She says whenever she felt stressed or overwhelmed, she reminded herself to take things one step at a time and that every experience is temporary.

“I had to let go of what I thought being a grad student “should” be like and embrace how it could work for me,” she said.

She tackled reading assignments and school work after her kids went to bed, between music or swim lessons, and even on her lunch breaks.

She also scheduled downtime for rest and time with her family to make up for the periods she spent in self-imposed isolation while completing assignments.

Accomplished alumna

In addition to her master’s degree, Ms. Follett completed a bachelor of arts degree and a certificate in Newfoundland studies in 2005, a certificate in criminology in 2011 and a certificate in public policy and governance in 2020.

She also completed a certificate (honours) in research administration from Mohawk College in 2020.

Learning from fellow students was among the things she enjoyed most about her master’s program.

“I had the added variables of new-to-me technology, being set up at home — in my bedroom no less.” — Karen Follett

She says she was fortunate to take part in diverse class discussions fuelled by different perspectives, backgrounds, cultures and generations.

There were moments that were also novel — and nerve-wracking.

“Presentations aren’t my favourite anyway, but then I had the added variables of new-to-me technology, being set up at home — in my bedroom no less — keeping the kids quiet, figuring out lighting and sound, and still trying to sound professional. It was actually a pretty funny situation, looking back at it. Thankfully my co-presenter was fantastic and we did really well!”

Ms. Follett credits her parents, husband, colleagues and Memorial’s Employee Training and Development policy for helping her get through her program.

She encourages anyone thinking about graduate school to go for it.

“Take the first step, then the next, and soon enough you’ll be so far down the road that you’ll see the end in sight.”

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