One gift leads to another — new MGA scholarship to help Caribbean students

February 5, 2020 by Sean McNeely - A&S News

On a recent flight to Toronto, Connie Carter beamed as she filled out her customs form. In the box that asked for her nationality, she was able to print “Canadian” for the very first time.

“I felt such pride,” says Carter, who was born in Jamaica, educated in the United Kingdom, lived in Denmark for most of her adult life, and became a Canadian citizen last October.

She decided to celebrate her citizenship by creating a scholarship for the Munk School of Global Affairs & Public Policy’s Master of Global Affairs (MGA) program. Her gift established the Dr. Connie Carter Global Affairs Award, which will support students from the Caribbean community known as CARICOM that represents 20 different island nations. Carter’s gift will also support the Munk School’s recruitment of students from that region.

Her wish is for students of Caribbean heritage to see more of the world and explore global opportunities, academically, professionally and personally, as she has done.

Though she now proudly calls herself Canadian, Carter really is a global citizen. A former barrister–at-law and recently retired law professor, she holds a PhD in law from the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), University of London, and was called to the bar at Lincoln’s Inn, London.

Following a career with multinational corporations and non-profits in Denmark, China, France and the UK, Carter taught law at Royal Roads University in Victoria, BC for 10 years, and as a visiting professor, gave lectures in international trade, corporate governance, Chinese law and intellectual property law at universities across Europe and Asia.

“Travel is the best way in which you can support and expand your education,” she says. “It lets you see a world that you could probably never imagine, never believe until you experience it for yourself. You can learn and combine it with working overseas, whether it's at a university or a study abroad program. You experience other cultures, other ways of life, food, architecture, traditions.”

As a former program director for a similar program at Royal Roads University, she understands the doors that the Munk School’s MGA program can open. “It allows people to experience a global society,” she says. “It helps provide the toolbox that you will need to help navigate foreign communities."

Carter isn’t a big fan of a career path that involves sticking with one company in one place and simply moving up the ladder. She feels there’s just too much opportunity out there for anyone willing to embrace the rewarding challenges of new countries, cultures and markets.

She would also like to see more Caribbean representation on the global business stage. While teaching and working across the globe, in Europe and Asia she rarely met other professionals from the Caribbean.

“It would be wonderful to be in Berlin or Yangon and bump into a professional from Trinidad or Guyana,” she says.

Carter lived and worked in the corporate world in China until 2005. She was one of four directors at a German-owned company manufacturing forklift trucks. She moved to Canada to oversee care for her mother who was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and passed away last year.

While in Toronto she became involved socially with the Munk School, attending several events and becoming an avid reader of the school’s newsletter. Late last year, an article about Thomas Kierans caught her eye.

Kierans, a Distinguished Fellow of the Munk School, established the Thomas E. Kierans and Mary Janigan MGA Scholarship last fall. This award will provide new Canadian students with funding to cover the cost of tuition for both years of the MGA program.

“I read that article the day after I became a Canadian citizen,” says Carter, who was moved by Kierans’s generosity. She did a little investigating about Kierans and his gift, and reached out to him.

“Tom was the key to me saying, ‘I should give something back as well,’” she says. Soon after they connected, Carter approached the Munk School to pledge her gift.

In addition to her gift, Carter intends to help students as a mentor, drawing on her professional experiences and in her capacity as a Munk School Senior Fellow.

“I'm quite proud of what I've accomplished,” she says. “It's been a wiggly road, but that's the fun of it. It's okay to go with the flow, show flexibility, confident in your acquired navigation skills and knowledge, and in your ability to grow by taking on new challenges and lifelong learning.”

Carter has given herself a new challenge — to visit each of the CARICOM member nations. She believes she’s visited about half so far, and can’t wait to see the rest with her new Canadian passport.