Memorial University of Newfoundland

05/29/2024 | News release | Distributed by Public on 05/29/2024 04:55

Family affair

special feature: Class of 2024

Part of a special feature celebrating and recognizing the Class of 2024 at Memorial.

May 29, 2024

By Susan White

Crossing the convocation stage in the same week will result in an unforgettable moment for a mother and son this spring.

From left are Liam Gale and Tracey Hennessey. The mother and son will cross the Arts and Culture Centre stage this week to collect their degrees.
Photo: Rich Blenkinsopp

On Wednesday, May 29, Liam Gale of St. John's will receive a bachelor of commerce (co-operative) degree.

And on Friday, May 31, his mother, Tracey Hennessey, will receive a master of arts degree in political science.

"It's fantastic," Mr. Gale said, of sharing his Memorial University convocation experience with his mom. "She's been so supportive of me over the course of my whole school career since I was a kid, so it's very cool that I could support her through her program. I wouldn't want it any other way."

Long-time goal

Ms. Hennessey has wanted to do a graduate degree every year since she finished her a bachelor of public relations degree from Mount Saint Vincent University in 1992.

"I think that the Department of Political Science is a hidden gem at Memorial." - Tracey Hennessey

The pandemic, which began the same year she turned 50, provided an opportunity to reflect on life and priorities, she says.

"I thought, 'Why am I putting off something that I've always wanted to do?'"

She says the experience was "way more fulfilling" than she could have imagined.

"I think that the Department of Political Science is a hidden gem at Memorial. The academic prowess and the level of academic advising is exceptional."

Diverse classrooms

One unanticipated benefit was the opportunity to be in classrooms with a diverse group of international students.

"Going back to school in your 50s, you think at this age that you've seen it all, you've heard it all and you have a good grasp of the world," Ms. Hennessey, who is a long-time public servant who's currently a senior policy advisor with the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency. "But we don't. My thinking has been shifted and my eyes opened much wider because of the perspectives of my fellow students."

From left, Tracey Hennessey and her son Liam Gale at Long Pond on the St. John's campus.
Photo: Rich Blenkinsopp

Plus, turmoil around the globe - ranging from continuing pandemic fallouts to ongoing geo-political issues - made her studies "truly relevant."

"We can be sitting here in Newfoundland and Labrador, but be exposed to all kinds of pertinent national and international research and academic connections because of the eclectic backgrounds and expertise of our professors," she said.

Mr. Gale also had his eyes opened during his program, both from work terms that provided hands-on experience and a semester spent abroad studying at Memorial's Harlow campus.

He was part of the first cohort to participate in the revamped program at the Faculty of Business Administration, which connects business students with the United Kingdom's Innovation Corridor, a swiftly growing innovation space in Harlow.

"You kind of understand how different cultures, different countries, fit together, like puzzles pieces." - Liam Gale

The experience, he says, was "absolutely life-changing."

He says it helped open his eyes to international business and marketing.

"You have to think in a different way when you're in a different country. It's reflected very positively on my career."

Mr. Gale has converted his work terms - all completed at Whitecap International Seafood Exporters - into full-time work as the company's marketing and sales analyst.

He hopes to continue working there and further develop his skills in international business.

"I think seeing the world is a really important part of doing business," he said. "You kind of understand how different cultures, different countries, fit together, like puzzles pieces, in the big scheme of global business."

Family dynamics

A third member of the family is also a Memorial student.

Alana Gale, Tracey Hennessey's daughter and Mr. Gale's sister, is a second-year political science and English student.

Ms. Hennessy says going through university at the same time as her children created a new dynamic for their relationships.

"I felt like I could completely relate to them in a different way," she said. "Conversations at supper time were fantastic because we're all talking about what we're doing, our profs' lectures and how it all relates to the world.

"It's interesting, being supported by your children while sharing a common experience," she added. "The last few years have been incredibly enriching, and I'm sure we'll talk about it for years to come."

Susan White is a communications advisor with the Faculty of Business Administration. She can be reached at [email protected].

To receive news from Memorial in your inbox, subscribe to Gazette Now.