Coming full circle
Lori Stewart needs to stop and think when she's asked to reflect on the highlights of her time in the Master of Industrial Relations program.
"I enjoyed the year," she says. "I enjoyed it academically and it was a wonderful experience, but what's been most impressive is what's happened afterward."
A couple of things happened to Stewart after graduation. First, she embarked on a fulfilling career in human resources, labour relations and organizational development. "That wouldn't have happened without my MIR," she says. "It brought me credibility in the marketplace."
Stewart's career first took her to Toronto, where she worked in the corporate sector in a series of progressively senior positions. "I've always felt confident in my work," she says. "The program was broad-based and it gave me a good academic footing for the kind of work I wanted to do. It covered all areas and gave me a solid foundation to build my career on."
Just as importantly, Stewart also discovered a tight network among Industrial Relations alumni. "One of the great things about the MIR program is the people it tends to attract: a lot of interesting , high calibre people."
"It's probably a bit different from other departments because we tend not to be academics," she continues. "We're more professionals than academics."
After graduation, Stewart remained close with a group of 10-15 classmates, maintaining regular contact either by telephone or by e-mail. That regular contact has served Stewart well, not just personally, but also professionally. "We help each other out all the time," she says.
At one point, a former classmate was in need of a labour and employment lawyer. He sent requests to former classmates and in short order had a handful of referrals to choose from. On another occasion she was creating a new policy for her workplace and was stuck on a point. "I sent an e-mail out asking if anyone had an example of a similar policy and I got several samples back," she says. "It's an incredible resource to be able to draw on."
Stewart has also been able to return the favour. Twice she's referred classmates to organizations in search of expertise. She's also become a resource for subsequent graduating classes. "On three different occasions, I've had the opportunity to recruit from the MIR program," she says. I hired them knowing I would get a good calibre person that would hit the ground running, and that's exactly what I got. They were all great."
After 13 years working in Toronto, Stewart is back at Queen's, working as an organizational development consultant, specializing in team building, change management and employee engagement projects. "I feel like I've come full circle," she says. "It's nice that I can use what I've learned in the MIR program to contribute to the university."