Tracy Coady- Bachelor of Business in Management Applications (Online)

Name: Tracy Coady

Job: Executive Assistant to the VP International Education; Study & Travel Abroad Coordinator

School:  St. Lawrence College, Kingston, Ontario, Canada

Can you share your career path to date? 

I left college in 1987, and I’ve worked in retail, hospitality, construction, social services and higher education fields. I’ve worked in 4 colleges in 3 provinces in support staff roles. I’ve been employed at St. Lawrence College since 2008: Apprenticeship Clerk, Receptionist for the Schools of Skilled Trades & Tourism and Applied Science & Computing, Secretary to the Deans, and Administrative Assistant to the Dean of International Education.  In February 2019, after completing my Level 7 degree at IT Sligo in 2018, I was promoted to Executive Assistant to the Vice President of International Education, which is a management level role at SLC. I’m also the Study & Travel Abroad Coordinator. 

 What does your current role involve? 

I assist the VP of International in administering the college’s vision for international students coming into SLC and for domestic students incorporating international/intercultural experiences into their learning at SLC. As the STA Coordinator, I assist students, faculty and staff in achieving their international education and professional development goals. I have financial, administrative and advising duties in both my roles. I am the liaison for international education partners for articulations and recruiting, and I pay the department’s bills. 

What motivated you to start studying?  

I left college with a two year diploma in Business Administration Marketing a very long time ago. In order to achieve my goal of becoming an Executive Assistant, I needed a Bachelor’s degree. I began taking online courses at a Canadian college in 2015, but it was very slow and quite expensive. 

Why did you choose this course from ATU Sligo? 

Being able to have my prior college education recognized and credited towards the ATU Sligo degree, and achieving a degree in one academic year was very attractive to me. The price was excellent too! I have been successfully sending graduates from SLC to ATU Sligo for more than 5 years via our pathway agreement, so I knew I would get a quality education. 

How did you find the process of studying online? What elements did you find helpful? Were there elements you found challenging?  

The workload of completing all the courses required in one academic year was very challenging! It’s a huge commitment, and I spent almost all of my non-working time doing course work or studying that year. But my classmates were amazing, and we really supported each other. I actually acknowledged them in my dissertation because I really did get so much more out of the program because of them than I ever anticipated. That connection really helped me stay motivated and engaged. Thank goodness for WhatsApp! The Moodle platform is a really functional way to deliver the materials for online learning. 

 In terms of your employer, were they supportive of your decision to study? Were there elements of the course that were particularly relevant to your current employer?  

I have a great employer who allowed me to attend my online lectures during the workday (I’m 5 hours behind Ireland here, so evening classes fell in the afternoon for me) and offers financial support for employees engaged in professional development. I was really lucky to be able to base my dissertation research on a topic that was actually useful to my employer as well, making my educational experience directly valuable to both me and my workplace. 

 What advice would you have for anyone considering studying online? 

I think one needs to be prepared for a lot of self-management; be disciplined with your time, stay connected with your classmates, and stay on track. At level 7 and 8 studies, you need to be prepared to research and learn beyond direct class time with the lecturer. The IT Sligo format of having live lectures that are recorded and accessible afterward is hugely helpful in reviewing and re-examining the material. It also really helps to have a supportive employer and family – knowing the people around you are on board with your goals makes it all much easier. I can’t thank my husband enough for picking up the slack at home while I studied. 

 In what way has studying online with ATU Sligo benefitted your career? 

It was a rather direct benefit: 4 months after graduation, I was promoted to Executive Assistant to the Vice President of International Education. 

 Did this course provide any unexpected benefits to your career? 

I was able to use my dissertation to research a topic relevant to my department, and to create an initial body of research data which contributed to my department’s strategy development. It allowed me to engage with other departments in the college and in my community to talk about the results. This greater visibility and engagement is really helpful in my new role. I feel I’ve earned some respect for my contribution to achieving departmental goals. 

 Did you find that the elements you were studying had practical relevance in your day-to-day role?  

Absolutely! The Finance course was especially helpful, as I do a lot of budget planning, monitoring and evaluation in my role. The research for my dissertation was directly relevant, and I learned theories and processes in Management, HR and Economics that I’m finding really helpful in my management-level role now. 

 What were the key skills you took away from your time studying at ATU Sligo? 

The ability to manage my time and prioritize while working full-time and studying are probably the most practical skills I can claim. But I also learned to look beyond my previous role and examine challenges and opportunities in my organization from a broader management perspective, which has been absolutely career enhancing.  I’m back this year for ATU Sligo’s Level 8 online Business degree! 

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