It was a lightbulb moment for Catherine Stace. After walking away from a successful career as a telecommunications executive, stepping on to McGill campus was a breath of fresh air.
“I took a month leave of absence, went over to the university sector and I realized after a week, ‘Wow, I cannot go back to my other job.’ You just get this amazing view of these people that are about to take over the world. They're about to do something great and they're on the edge of making those decisions.”
As the Career Services Manager at the Max Bell School of Public Policy, Catherine relishes the opportunity to help MPP students with those decisions. The role has been a great fit and allows her to combine her entrepreneurial drive, artistic streak, and passion for helping people. Asked what she likes most about the job, she couldn’t give just one answer.
“When I first started, every day I would come home and say ‘I met the most incredible student, I met the most incredible student.’ I’d just forgotten how exciting campuses are. They’re where we see social change happen first. When I first started at McGill, mental health just wasn't a thing in most workplaces, but they'd already been talking about it for ages on campus. McGill had some awesome students and profs that paved the way for these conversations.”
More than a job
Career services is equal parts occupation and passion for Catherine. She was recently elected President of the Canadian Association of Career Educators and Employers (CACEE), a national network connecting and certifying career educators and employers, after 15 years of volunteer service with the organization. “I've always been an avid volunteer. Before I entered the career services space I did volunteer work with homelessness, youth leadership, education, a bunch of areas to fulfill what my career wasn’t giving me… Now it’s everything perfectly rolled up into one.”
Catherine’s dedication to her community and to the students who walk through her door hasn’t gone unnoticed. In 2016, she received the McGill Principal’s Award in recognition of her outstanding contributions to the university, followed by a Quebec Regional Recognition Award in 2020 for her achievements in the career services sector. And there is still plenty of work to do.
Your one-stop shop
Incoming students to the Max Bell School of Public Policy should make visiting Catherine a priority—regardless of what they may be envisioning for their careers.
“I'm here to support students not just in their career aspirations. Many of my conversations have been around helping students make meaning of what they're interested in, what their values are, and how they want to apply them in their studies and in their lives.”
A lot of new ideas can emerge from these deeper conversations. Catherine notes that public policy is an incredibly broad set of professions. “It’s in all facets of our life and we don’t realize it!” she quips. Even if students know they want a career in public policy, Catherine can help break down what can be a fairly complicated and overwhelming set of considerations into a customized, step-by-step process.
“With some students, we’ll do goal setting. Then we may move on to coming up with some sort of multi-tiered job search strategy based on their interests, the sector and occupation. Sometimes it’s the simple things like applications and interviews. What do I say in a coffee chat with somebody? Then based on what our new students are interested in, I'll look for speakers that match that current class's interest to come and talk to them about the realities of careers in that particular area.”
Changing careers herself has left Catherine uniquely equipped to advise and guide MPP students through these life choices. The enthusiasm in her voice is palpable as she talks about the incoming cohort, and she’s excited to help them navigate the campus, shape their futures, and build a lifelong connection to McGill.
“Our alumni network (currently 31 students) is full of amazing ideas. Last year we assembled this incredible panel of women leaders who work in policy consulting… It’s a small group but it’s already very active.”
Catherine can be reached at maxbell.careers [at] mcgill.ca.