PhD candidate mixes work and play in the recipe for success

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PhD candidate mixes work and play in the recipe for success

Published on May 18 2012

For many of us, discovering a way to fuse our personal passions with our career can be just as puzzling as completing a crossword void of clues.
However, for those who are fortunate enough to secure such a blend - those like Kate Cassidy - the product of the oft unachievable “work and play” is pure bliss.
Cassidy, who is the director of Youth University, Continuing Education and Community Learning at Brock University, is pursuing her PhD in Education, a field that, in the not so distant past, would have seemed improbable.
“I always thought I would work in business when I grew up,” admits Cassidy. “While I was doing my BBA I worked each summer at a camp for kids and became fascinated by how people seemed to really flourish in such an accepting and supportive educational environment.”
It was through these experiences that Cassidy began to shift her career goals. With the “why” out of the way, it was time to conquer its questioning counterparts; what, where, when and for good measure, how?
“I finished university and went on to work at an outdoor center and later for an outdoor program for foster youth. I love being outdoors, but I think what drew me to work in non-formal education settings was the freedom to help people learn about themselves and build relationships as a foundation from which to foster curiosity and personal growth,” says Cassidy. “I have found that when people feel accepted and cared for they can more easily find the joy in learning and helping each other. Learning, contributing to others, being oneself, caring and belonging … these things just make sense to me as important ways of being in the world.”
In 2002, when it came time to find a permanent home where she could put her skills and education to use, Cassidy found her way back to Brock, recalling the strong sense of community the university fostered.
“When I met people that I had talked to on the phone they remembered me and I knew that I would be more than a student number here,” reminisces Cassidy of what brought her to Brock in the first place. ”I moved away after finishing my Masters, but was drawn back because of the people I had met.”
Pursuing her PhD was a natural progression for Cassidy and notes that furthering her education has always been a way for her to “challenge myself personally, become better at what I do and develop forward-thinking programs”.
Influenced by her dissertation on middle school belonging and a research project on access to post-secondary education in Niagara, Cassidy is currently working on developing a number of new programs. She is also part of a team that is creating a video intended to help motivate youth for lifelong learning and post-secondary education by helping them locate their interests, skills and talents in various areas of global citizenship.
With hopes of completing her PhD within the year, Cassidy continues to make a difference at Brock University and in the community, finding joy and passion in every step along the way.
“The tag line for the programs I oversee is ‘Character, Community, Curiosity’. It not only represents what I believe about education but also what is important to me as a person. I feel very fortunate that my personal development is so tied to what I do every day for work.”

Side profile of Kate Cassidy smiling outdoors
Successful fusion of work and play

Kate Cassidy, PhD candidate and executive director of Youth University, Continued Education and Community Learning, has found a way to intertwine her personal passions with those of her working environments.