The Centre for International Studies (CIS) held its first panel discussion of the year, in what they hope to be a series of events.
The panel, titled “Academics in Action”, was held Saturday in the student centre. The panelists shared their experiences of how they shaped their careers in the respective arenas of: “Politics, Research, NGOs and Activism.” CIS Co-coordinator and event host Natalie Brunet said she thought this event was important because “university has made me aware of many […] issues, yet did not seem to provide me with concrete ways to address these issues. I hoped that the panel would inspire students to realize the different avenues of […] becoming active outside their classwork.”
Of the four scheduled panelists, only three were in attendance: Activist Brian Crouse was unable to be in Sackville due to his involvement with protests in Halifax in support of Elsipogtog First Nation. In his absence a letter was read expressing his concerns over inequality and urging “action” when the interests of private companies are allowed to proceed at the expense of the public interest.
The panelists shared tales of their respective career paths, explained how they got there and described some of the challenges they faced. Each panelist emphasized the possibilities of turning personal passion into a career. Jeff Schnurr, Executive Director of the Sackville-based NGO, Community Forests International, told attendees, “invest in yourself, if you’re interested in something pursue it, find that way to take action no matter what it is.”
Shawni Beaulieu agreed with Schnurr, explaining how she translated her passions for anthropology and event planning into working as an administrative co-ordinator of the NB Social Policy Research Network. She described the network as a “millionaire matchmaker” for academics, researchers, social policy experts, and government workers in New Brunswick. “Do what you love, and do your best to make something out of that,” she told the audience.
Mary Jo Andow echoed this message, saying she was drawn to politics when she saw poverty in New Brunswick as “something that really bothered me.” She left her job in marketing, and now works for the Liberal Party of New Brunswick as the chief policy researcher for the Office of the Official Opposition. She had volunteered for the Liberals for a long time previously, and asked her superiors for full-time employment. Andow emphasized the importance of volunteering as a means of establishing connections and discovering opportunities.
Another important message of the discussion was how to evaluate success in pursuing one’s ambitions. Andow commented that in politics, “Most of what I work on is not successful.. But that one out of ten is worth it.”
Schnurr concurred: “This is the cheapest time to fail in your life. No one else is on the line, just you.” Pointing out that he has no university education, he said his early success was based on limited resources, “Life is not about being caught up by the challenges, it’s about taking them and turning it into what you do.”