MA Leadership for Sustainability
KAR Development Inc.
‘Nature is one of my key values, and I’ve been toying with how to enact that value in a more significant way in the rest of my life. Coming on the MA in Leadership for Sustainability at Lancaster is partly about helping me figure out how to do that.’
Toronto-based Kathy Rethy left the corporate world four years ago, after more than 20 years as an executive for global mining and chemical companies. Her last full-time post was that of senior vice-president, global services, for Falconbridge Ltd. Now she runs her own company, serves on the executive boards of a number of organisations, and acts as a mentor to professional organisations, chief executives and emerging new leaders.
As she considered what to do in the next phase of her life, the idea of coming back to education had a strong appeal. She already has three degrees to her name – bachelors in biology and law, plus an MBA – but this time she wanted to step outside of the North American experience:
‘For me, coming back to school was very much about gaining a different perspective on life and on the world. It could have been Spain, Denmark, South America even... But this particular programme, with the attributes it had and its way of teaching, combined with it being in an English-speaking country which has a long tradition of academic excellence – I just put all those pieces together and it made sense.
‘It’s great that the course is based around action learning and action research, because you get to experiment, to try things out. For me that was a key reason for coming.
‘I wanted to gain some substantive knowledge, both about leadership and sustainability itself, in order to be able to speak and think more knowledgeably – to work out how to answer my own personal questions and how to apply that to my personal quest for what to do next.
‘One of the things I have found most rewarding about the programme – and one of the chief reasons I chose it – is that it’s not prescriptive about what you do. The overall field is common, but what you do and how you do it, what topics you choose, is completely personal. That’s so important at this stage of our careers: we need to be able to explore what matters to us, but in a guided way. It has really enabled me to do that.’
Kathy has already been applying the course learning to her Board work and has found that the interaction with other experienced professionals, coming from different backgrounds but sharing similar convictions, has proved very valuable:
‘The course is designed for people who have lots of experience because we also learn from each other. In the intervals between sessions, a lot of substantive work is going on. Being able to reconnect face to face is really good – and the dialogues we have in class are very beneficial.
‘I don’t think my values have changed, but my confidence about doing something has increased. It’s given me more ways to think about and look at things. People who grow up in a particular environment – be it corporate, academic or not-for-profit – have a certain way of thinking, a certain way that questions get asked.
‘What this programme has done is help me open up my mind to other ways of thinking about things and asking about them. It’s like giving yourself permission to do things that were not part of the way you grew up, through your career.’