Cindy Cook can count on one hand the number of truly inspiring teachers she’s had the privilege of learning from over the course of her academic career.
“I had maybe three teachers, professors and instructors who’ve really stood out throughout my entire educational life from primary school to now – and one of them is at Yorkville,” she said, including YU’s Dean of Education on that list of memorable mentors.
“That’s because she and this university gave me the opportunity to read the things that were interesting to me and to write about things that were interesting to me, so that I could pursue this degree and my education through a lens that matters to me.”
For Cook, who recently graduated from Yorkville’s online Master of Education in Educational Leadership program, that lens of choice was one focused on better serving the students of Nova Scotia Community College (NSCC).
As an administrator in NSCC’s Accessibility and Learning Support Services department, the Pleasantville, Nova Scotia resident currently oversees a staff who work directly to ensure the academic success of students with disabilities at the college’s 14 campuses across the province.
Her hope moving forward is that her newly acquired Yorkville Masters degree will help propel her already rewarding career at NSCC to even higher heights.
“My goal would be to move into executive leadership, eventually. Over time, I see myself at those tables, making really important decisions about how we serve Nova Scotians and how we bring our students into the institution to do that,” she said.
“(Having now graduated), I feel like I just opened a door…that I’m now in a position to advance my career and to pursue other opportunities at my institution. I have a long way to go, but I’m committed to (NSCC), and I think this degree will help me stay there for many years to come – right through to retirement.”
While having a Masters credential to add to her title is one thing, Cook said what she’s most excited about is getting the opportunity to apply all of the knowledge she soaked up in the course of earning her MEd at Yorkville.
“This program gave me so much theory and history behind the field of education – subjects related to diversity and inclusion, social justice, organizational structure – which have prepared me to really dive into those issues at my institution in terms of engaging with executives and stakeholders,” she said.
“Those kinds of programs have been just amazing to engage with and understand and learn. There’s so much practical that I can now take back to my institution.”
Cook said that while she initially found the work-life-school balance a challenging one, Yorkville’s online offerings and supportive staff helped ease the transition for her – and ultimately made it a successful one.
“I won’t say it wasn’t challenging. There are challenges with working full time, especially in the field of education, which, at times, can be heartbreaking work,” she said.
“Then to be in classes on top of that, and to redirect your focus to a particular article or subject matter, it was challenging. But…I think what really got me through was the subject matter alone and the richness of the material in this program. I knew it was going to be so beneficial in my job.”
It also helped, she said, knowing that she had the full support of inspiring professors like Lyle standing behind her.
“She was very enthusiastic, she was very engaged, and she gave immediate feedback right away, which helps you understand if you’re on the right track. I really appreciated her candour and ability to speak matter of factly about where you are, what you need to accomplish and how you’re going to get there,” Cook said.
“Finding her along this journey, it really helped me get over those humps and get to the end…She’s one of the big reasons why this experience has been so rich for me.”