Alumni Interview: Marie-Lauren Gregoire
Interviewed by Misha Apel
Area of Study: English & Philosophy
I had the opportunity to interview Western alumna Marie-Lauren Gregoire, Communications Manager at the Canadian Hearing Society (CHS) in Toronto. I had a blast speaking to a past Western student in my faculty and connecting as students with similar interests, involvement, and degrees. We spent an hour and a half on the phone, as Gregoire is based in Toronto and I in London, and she never stopped speaking passionately and enthusiastically about her time at Western. Marie-Lauren Gregoire has an amazing history of campus involvement, and Western pride, and said frequently during our interview that many of her skills came from her experiences at Western.
English Language and Literature
Gregoire studied English Language and Literature for her undergraduate degree at Western with Philosophy. She almost also had a minor in Spanish. As Gregoire’s field of study was very writing heavy, I asked what she felt were her most effective study habits. “I crammed a lot,” Gregoire stated. It was refreshing to see that sometimes students just have too much on their plates to study for an appropriate amount of time. “I think that weekly review, or as projects came up, group work was very helpful as well as tutorial sessions which were effective study help in class.”
Every student at some point must sit down and consider what trajectory their studies and experiences are taking them. So, I felt it was important to ask Gregoire what she wanted to do when she started her undergraduate degree. “I wanted to study English, definitely. I hadn’t focused on a minor at the time. But I wanted to go into English because I was focused on the arts in high school, especially the dramatic arts. My plan at university was to take as many courses as I could to get a sense as to what I could do academically. I took some film courses, some philosophy, some Spanish. I also branched out and took some earth science courses at the end of my degree, I should have taken it earlier and branched out earlier.” As a current Western student, I find I’m in the same position taking many different courses to try and find my path, and as Gregoire stated her courses were “very interesting and integral to [her] development.” Gregoire knew what she liked to study, focused on those areas, and went from there.
Time at Western
Gregoire was a very involved undergraduate student. She was on the Delaware Residence Council, the University Students’ Council and was the Clubs commissioner in her third year. She was also involved with the Black Students Association (BSA), the Caribbean Students Association (CSA), and even participated in a couple plays with the Arts Department, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and For Coloured Girls- When the Rainbow is Enuf.
An important question I asked Gregoire was what the hardest part about school at Western was for her, to which she answered “managing the distractions.” This is something I connected to deeply. It is hard managing everything and wanting to do everything at the same time, and clearly this is not a new phenomenon. Gregoire enjoyed that Western allows for a “360-degree experience, combining social life, leadership, and schooling.” It was a constant battle of being a student versus balancing life that Gregoire found to be the most challenging. “Being a very involved person, I found myself stretching to keep up my academics while being involved in student life. I learned time management during a seminar, and this helped me to learn how to not only do well in my academics but to get involved and evolve my resume.” Gregoire still uses techniques from that seminar today. “Even though technology has changed I still use things like organizing lists, timelines, colour coding, even though I can use calendars like Outlook and reminders now.” Marie-Lauren ended this question with an important piece of advice: “Make sure your life has balance: student life and academics.”
Life After Graduation
So, what did Marie-Lauren Gregoire do upon receiving her graduation status from Western. Well, like any other young adult, she turned towards getting a job. Gregoire took some courses at the Ivey Business School about entrepreneurship as she had ambition to help her mother’s small business. She worked at a bank, and then at a marketing firm. Working in marketing was preferred to Gregoire as it overlapped with her degree and she got to work with words. She then found a job at a local newspaper working in journalism, which inspired her to go to Ryerson University for Journalism. She felt that although she did not need more schooling, her job prospects opened up when she completed her journalism degree and she could now do something she enjoyed.
Gregoire is currently in public relations, which she chose for being able to be on both sides of the issue. She worked as a journalist for a couple of years, but journalism uses a different type of skill set than what communications people use. She now gets to see the perspective from the company’s side while continuing to write. “I felt I had a broader skill set based on my experience and as a communication professional, so now I do writing, programming, organization, event management and more.”
I was curious, because as a fellow English student, how her current career uses things that she learned during her undergraduate degree. “For me, the English Language and Literature Program and study of English has been essential to my success. I continue to use English skills in marketing communications and as a marketing manager. Understanding the English language in my current work is critical every time I have to write an issue note or news release or if I’m reviewing content for a website or social media.”
Gregoire’s Work Experience
Marie-Lauren began her job at the Canadian Hearing Society in September of 2013 as a Communications Manager. She found that her current employer provided her opportunities that allowed her to continue to progress her career. The company she works at, the Canadian Hearing Society, is non-profit and the goal is to help disadvantaged communities. “This is something that appeals to me, something that works from a social justice perspective.” Gregoire now uses her skill set and expertise to help people. She organizes many projects, big or small, employee training, outreach events with students, corporate trip to Washington D.C. for a tour of a deaf/hard of hearing university to share information about job prospects, organizes International Week of the Deaf with a symposium and job fair, does internal internet projects, digital and traditional media, and writes and organizes events for the International Day of Persons with Disabilities (UN). This is just a short list of Gregoire’s responsibilities and capabilities.
If you were to hire a Western student, what skills would they need?
Gregoire explained that there are 5 important skills to be a top performer in her job: Language and use of Language, Negotiation Skills, Organizational Skills, Judgement, and Knowledge.
Language and the use of language is incredibly important as that is what PR people do. “We use language to describe things,” and this language creates a meaning. Whether it is English, or French employees need a mastery of language.
The skill of negotiation is essential to come to an understanding with different groups of people. In her field of work, one must work with multiple different groups, internally and organizationally, work with different departments and different programs and come to a decision or effective solution.
One must, for any job, have strong organizational skills. Compartmentalizing your mind, organizing work effectively, and setting priorities are important to be a successful employee.
Having a strong sense of judgement is to be able to constantly juggle priorities and make intelligent decisions as to which to do first. “If there is a media crisis, I have to use judgement to see what is the correct action to solve a problem.” Gregoire explains, “based on my knowledge of the field I have to choose which is the most pressing issue and go from there.”
Specific knowledge of the field is important to work in a communications or public relations environment. One must always know what the trends are, where to find that information, and to keep knowledge current. “In this position, it is important to provide the right information to people with a good, sound judgement.”
“If I were looking to employ a new graduate from Western, I would look for someone who has not only done well in their academics, but has a well-rounded educational experience. It is not always everything you’ve learned in class, but things you’ve learned in life and in the community. Whether you promote something or run an event, when hiring grads, I look for some type of work experience, or volunteer work, paid internships, summer jobs, and if they can transfer skill sets that apply for the job I am hiring for, then they are a good candidate.”
As a second-year student, I felt comfort in speaking to a Western alumna who actually did it! She graduated, and got a job she enjoys. This consolation has made me feel calmer about my experience as a student, and has helped me understand that it is important to gear my studies towards my interests, or I will be miserable in the future. Every student worries whether they will get a job in the field they are studying, and this interview experience has taught me that the world is my playground, and no matter what I choose as a student to pursue, there will be a place for me in the big-wide world.
I want to personally thank Marie-Lauren Gregoire for taking time out of her busy day to speak to me and participate in this Alumni Interview.