When Carolyn and Erica Campbell both walked across the stage at Yorkville University’s June 3 graduation ceremony, it was a picture-perfect moment the mother-daughter duo never thought would happen.
“It’s only by nature of the pandemic,” said mom, Carolyn. “Because I actually finished the MEd [Master of Education in Adult Education] program in March of 2020. And then I did the virtual ceremony online in 2021 and then they said, ‘Well, if you’d like to attend the live ceremony in 2022, you’re more than welcome.’”
“Since Erica was graduating anyway, I thought, of course! I’m not going to miss that photo op!”
Considering her studies were fully delivered online, Erica was impressed the ceremony felt so personal.
“It was a great ceremony!”, the Master of Arts in Counselling Psychology (MACP) grad enthused.
“Even just crossing the stage, or watching other people cross the stage, every staff member who was up there – it felt very sincere. You could tell all of them felt very proud of every person graduating. It was a small university vibe. Even though we didn’t all know each other, it really felt like you did.”
For Carolyn, the biggest surprise was how emotional she was during her own ceremony. She said that had Erica not been graduating, she likely wouldn’t have even attended. Carolyn felt like it was so far removed, because so much had happened in the two years since she completed her program; from the COVID-19 pandemic, to a breast cancer diagnosis in January of 2022.
“It became a very special thing for me to be there, just for myself,” reflected Carolyn.
“I allowed myself to take that time and be proud of what I did. I think my brain has just shifted to a different spot since the cancer, as well, that I see those moments as more important than I did. It changes your perspective. And I don’t know how to describe it, but most cancer patients you talk to will tell you the same thing.”
It had been almost a year and a half since she’d seen Erica, because of the COVID-19 pandemic. So, when the mother and daughter met in Fredericton on the day of the convocation, Carolyn knew she’d be emotional watching Erica walk across the stage.
“I expected it when she was graduating, for the pride to leak out of my eyes,” she beamed. “But, being proud of myself was new. It just took me by surprise.”
The journey to convocation started for Erica after she had completed her Bachelor of Science degree at University of Prince Edward Island, though she admits that a master’s was never something she had given much consideration to. When she was doing her undergraduate degree, Erica said she didn’t have any passion or interest in what she was studying, until she took her first psychology courses.
“I realized that this whole methodology of science; the memorizing and regurgitating of things, wasn’t how my brain worked,” she explained. “Understanding a concept and applying it, though, that’s for me. And that’s how the psych classes were.”
“And I realized I wasn’t done learning psychology. I wanted to learn more.”
The MACP program offered Erica the opportunity to continue her studies in psychology. But even more than that, she expressed, it challenged her to work on self-growth and learn more about her own psyche.
“You really do so much self-reflection,” Erica observed. “A big part was checking yourself for any biases you might have. Taking what has happened to you in your life and your own mental health and double-checking it, thinking, ‘Okay wait. How could any of this affect how I would react to or think about my client?’”
Carolyn echoed her daughter’s thoughts:
“Yes! The concept of the invisible backpack and this stuff that we carry, and the experiences we’ve had, and the people we’ve met, and the challenges we’ve met, and the traumas we’ve experienced,” she enthused. “Everybody has their own backpack and there are some of the same things in some of the backpacks, but in the end everybody’s backpack is completely different.”
“The MEd program just literally opened my mind at age 45. It was a great experience.”
Carolyn had been a pharmacist, prior to joining YU and Trevor, her husband and Erica’s father, recently retired after 32 years with the Royal Canadian Air Force. By the nature of his employment, the family moved on average once every two years.
She explained that since pharmacy licensing varies from province to province, the process “just became not fun anymore” and she began thinking about what to do next.
“I was kind of searching and adult education just kept coming back to me,” Carolyn ruminated. “And because Erica’s father was still in active duty at that time, I didn’t know when the next move was coming. So the online MEd in Adult Education program at YU was perfect for me.”
“I was 45 years old, going back to school!” she laughed. “It was a lot, but it was exciting.”
Now, the mother and daughter are looking to the future. Carolyn is currently working for the Public Service and Erica is hoping to open her own practice one day.
But no matter where life leads them, Carolyn mused, they’ll always have their shared graduation ceremony of 2022 to look back on.
“That’s a memory I’ll never forget.”