Learning as she goes
In 2005 Caley Webster came to visit Mount Allison from Ontario on the recommendation of family friends who are alumni. As they drove past the Waterfowl Park, they stopped to let a pheasant cross the road.
“I had always wanted to see a pheasant and that was a sign to me that Mount A would show me things I always wanted to see,” she says.
On her tour, she fell in love with the buildings, the heritage, the people, and sat in on her first class, Japanese. She was amazed at the small size of the classes.
“My mom said to me that day, ‘I’ve lost you to here, haven’t I?’” she says.
In September 2018 Webster returned to Mount Allison — 13 years after she came to campus as a first-year student — to complete the final year of her degree. In May, she graduated with a Bachelor of Arts majoring in English and minoring in Japanese and religious studies.
After her third year, Webster decided to take time off from her studies. She received her TEFL certification and taught in China for six months. When she returned home to Ontario, she applied for work through a temp agency and took a data entry job with Nestlé that would dramatically change the course of her life.
From data entry she became a dispatcher in charge of invoicing and within a year was a team lead for data entry and dispatch. She became country owner for a particular software for Nestlé Canada and the following year moved to company headquarters in Switzerland to become the global owner of the software.
“I put in a lot of time and hard work, but it was a lot of help and luck too,” she says.
After four years in Switzerland she was eager to return home, but found she wasn’t getting anywhere when applying for jobs. She knew to get where she wanted to go she had to finish her degree — and she wanted to do that at Mount Allison.
“I did worry about checking that box,” she says. “I didn’t want it to hold me back and I had always lived under the shadow of not finishing my degree. Even though I had this miraculous career, there is now a weight off my shoulders.”
Webster knew she could complete her degree anywhere, but she returned to Mount Allison because of the size of the University and the support she knew she would receive.
“I had a fear of not being able to keep up,” she says. “And there was the social impact of returning here on my own. But I was more engaged with my studies this time and focused on being a part of the school.”
Webster believes the liberal arts and sciences education she received at Mount Allison has been hugely beneficial because of its holistic approach.
“I was able to use almost every single course in my career, whether in creating a training manual, breaking down mathematical equations, or understanding code from computer science. The languages also really benefited me,” she says.
In the year when her original grad class returned for their 10-year reunion, Webster says she not only officially received her degree, she took away lifelong connections and a renewed sense of inquisitiveness.
Although an unconventional path, she says she wouldn’t change a thing.
“I followed the wind and it took me to great places,” she says. “But I wasn’t a balloon, I had defined goals and a drive to get there.”