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Finding out what your calling is requires you to understand who you are, what you are good at, and what impact you can make. For Carolyn “Cairrie” Williamson, it is encouraging, empowering and helping others.
Cairrie studied business and commerce all throughout high school in Ontario. After graduating grade 12, she moved to Vancouver and got a job as a Sales Representative. However, Cairrie knew she wanted to pursue further education, so she enrolled in and completed a Legal Secretary and Legal Assistant Diploma program. She also has a Business Diploma, a Registered Industrial Accountant (RIA) designation and a Certified General Accountant (CGA) designation.
Cairrie is a strong supporter of lifelong learning, and she believes people should always strive for more knowledge and growth.
“You can never get enough education. Various courses encourage you, teach you, and open your eyes to different things in the world, so none of it ever goes to waste.”
“As soon as I graduated from college, I started working for a legal firm,” shares Cairrie. “And after completing my accounting designation, I was offered a position as an accounting instructor by CDI College.” From there, Cairrie was given a chance to advance in her career by getting a position in the Student Services, and later the Program Advising Department, where she worked until she decided to retire a little over 5 years ago.
However, Cairrie’s story doesn’t end here. “I missed the interaction I had with others while I was working in the education industry. I remember seeing an ad for a position at Ashton College and immediately sent in my resume.” Soon enough, Cairrie had an interview appointment.
“You have to be confident in your skills and knowledge. I was confident in what I knew and the qualifications I had so I said, ‘why don’t you give me a chance and let me show you what I can do for you’, and I guess they respected that.”
A Student Affairs Officer at Ashton has two main duties: helping students with their questions or concerns, and providing guidance to current students and recent alumni with work placement. But for Cairrie, her role is really about building relationships with the students.
“The thing I love most about working in an educational institution is the communication with people, and knowing that you are helping them advance in their lives and careers.”
“My goal is to ensure that all the students have a pleasant and positive experience here at Ashton. If they come to me with any worries or concerns, be it about their experiences at school, their relationships with other students and faculty, their work placement search, or questions about their resume – I make sure I listen to them and provide them with all the resources they need.”
No matter what the student inquiry is, Cairrie is always there to find a solution, with the students’ best interest at heart. “I always seek to understand what our students want: what they like about Ashton, what works for them and what doesn’t, as well as how we can best support them.”
“Students come to Ashton from all walks of life, and I empathize with their stories and experiences. If I can help them in their journey, that’s the best reward for me.”
For Cairrie, working in the education field requires people skills and willingness to genuinely listen to what the person has to say. “Do not look at a student as just another number”, shares Cairrie. “Instead, realize that each student is special and each student has something to offer. It is your job to communicate effectively with them, so they know that you care and want them to succeed.”
Cairrie’s role as a Student Affairs Officer also requires her to build relationships and work with the student, as opposed to doing the work for the student. “I want to teach students how to take ownership of their decisions”. She has also stated that you must have integrity: “I value what I say and I stick to my word when I say something; never give false advice to anyone.”
Having spent a lot of time with students, Cairrie shares a few words of encouragement for them. “I always recommend the students to set goals for themselves and strive to reach higher. The best way to do that is to create a vision of what you want to accomplish and figure out what steps you need to take in order to get to that end goal and work towards it.”
“Be passionate, determined and driven. There are going to be times where you will struggle, but even with obstacles in your way, remember that the glass is always half full. Do not let hard times stop you from achieving your goals!”