A Conversation with Monica Geary, Class of 2012
Monica Geary joined Linden in Grade 8 and graduated in 2012. She studied Communications at Wilfrid Laurier University and is currently working as a Residence Life Coordinator at the University of New Brunswick. She recently spoke with us about her experience at university and how it has shaped her career path.
Linden: According to your campus newsletter, you were a “Campus Celebrity.” Tell us about your volunteer activities and work at Laurier and how these have fuelled your interest in a career in Residence Life.
Monica: I have always been described as a quiet leader, and this stayed true during my time at Linden and while pursuing my undergrad at Laurier. During my first year, I wasn’t very involved on campus, so I decided to get more involved in my second year by volunteering with the Diversity and Equity Office, and participating in a number of campus clubs. My time at Linden really taught me the importance of getting involved and supporting others, which led me to want to pursue roles in Residence Life at Laurier.
My third and fourth years were extremely impactful, thanks to the roles I took on in Residence Life. Both years I was a hired as a Residence Life Don and assigned an extra portfolio — in third year I was one of the Diversity Council Advisors, and in fourth year I was the Community Advisor for Clara Conrad Hall. As a Residence Life Don, I was a mentor and support for a community of students, providing opportunities for them to get to know both the Residence and overall Laurier Community, and helping with the transition to University. In my advising roles, I was able to work with a group of students who planned events for the residence communities at Laurier. I worked closely with the House Council for Conrad Hall, where I identified emerging student leaders and supported them in creating social and educational programs and events. I really loved both the Don and Advisor positions, which is what led me to my career path in Residence Life.
Linden: What were the highlights of your time at Wilfrid Laurier University?
Monica: The sense of community at Laurier was phenomenal, very similar to the strong community at Linden. The biggest highlight would be the friendships I made. As someone who was very shy growing up, I had a difficult time making friends. I made some wonderful friends at Laurier through classes, clubs, and especially working in Residence Life. Some of my best friends today are folks I worked with as a Residence Life Don. In that role, you grow and learn so much. There is so much bonding that happens, and your team and peers do become your family. Even now living in another province, I still talk to those friends on a regular basis, and I’m really thankful for all of them.
Linden: What led you to current role at the University of New Brunswick? What do you love about your job?
Monica: A few weeks into my time as a Don, many of my peers would tell me that I was going to work in Residence Life for a while. I just fell in love with what I was doing and loved my time as a student staff. I knew early on that this is what I wanted to do after I graduated. I owe much of this to my supervisor, Haylea, with whom I worked for two years. A lot of my approach now as a Residence Life Coordinator comes from her support and coaching. After graduating from Laurier, I was hired as a full-time Residence Life professional at Queen’s University, where I spent a year before moving in August 2017 to my current role: Residence Life Coordinator at the University of New Brunswick.
What I love most about my role is working with such driven, dedicated people. My colleagues here at UNB are some of the most positive, resilient individuals I have met. My first year in the role brought on several challenges, both professional and personal. While I was so excited about the opportunity, I had a difficult time being away from my family and friends in Ontario. What I learned from my first year at UNB is that our professional team is so strong, and we truly are capable of anything. They have been incredibly supportive, and I’m very fortunate to be part of, and learn from, such a wonderful team.
The ultimate love of the role and reason that I do this job is for the student staff. I have been very fortunate to supervise wonderful student leaders both at Queen’s University and now at UNB. They are the reason I push myself every day to be the best mentor and support possible. There’s something very special watching the growth your student staff displays over eight months or longer, and seeing how they develop as leaders on campus. It’s something I can’t fully put into words, but it brings me so much joy seeing all of the things my student staff accomplish in their roles, and in their own personal lives as well.
Linden: It sounds like your job involves a lot of coaching and leadership and also identifying emerging student leaders. How did your time at Linden prepare you for this?
I was really fortunate to have had amazing teachers and coaches at Linden, who encouraged me to take on leadership opportunities, especially with Athletics and Music. I remember always recognizing strengths in others, but I haven’t been the best at seeing my own strengths, and Linden was one environment where I was always encouraged to recognize strengths in myself. I’m really thankful for the Linden faculty. Had I not been pushed this way, I wouldn’t have been on five sports teams in my last year, or led Guitar Club for two years.
I truly think this has influenced my leadership style, and my coaching style with my student staff. One of my leaders said to me the other week that they want to be the best they can be, and something that helps that is seeing how much I believe in them. I find myself often encouraging my student staff to push themselves out of their comfort zones, and really working towards the things that bring them joy. Be it with their academics, their roles in Residence Life, or their passions and hobbies, it’s important to be supportive and encouraging. At the end of the day, my goal is simply to provide the strongest support possible, and if I can help bring some happiness in their lives in some capacity, that to me means that I’m doing something right.
Linden: What have been some of your favourite memories with your student staff at UNB so far?
Monica: Something that I value so much in my role is taking the time to get to know my student staff on a personal level. I hope that it comes through in the work that I do, but I truly put my heart and soul into what I do and invest a great amount of time in my relationships with my student staff. I care about more than just their performance, but I really do care about them as people, and try to support them the best way that I can. These folks have truly impacted me more than I expected, and I hope that I’ve helped and supported them in some way, shape, or form this year.
I have a lot of incredible memories with my student staff, including amazing one on one conversations, laughing at ridiculous jokes or television shows, playing music together. All of these I cherish. One memory that stands out is a conversation that actually happened during our Fall Leadership Training in August. This year I have a few student leaders who I am working with again for a second year in a row. One of these leaders was having a conversation with me, and reflecting on their own personal growth since starting their role last year for August Training in 2017. It was really special to hear them talking about the growth and development they saw in themselves not only as a student leader, but overall. It’s moments like this that remind me why I do the work that I do, and make me thankful for the work that I do.
Linden: Would you like to share a favourite memory of Linden?
Monica: I could write pages of wonderful memories from Linden. There’s two that stand out for me, both from my Grade 12 year.
I think one person I will never be able to thank enough is Deidre, who is the reason I signed up to play on Linden teams back in Grade 8, and then all throughout high school. While I loved all the sports teams I played for, Volleyball was my favourite sport. That last Volleyball season was really rewarding. I was lucky enough to be captain that year, and the entire season was really special. I was lucky enough to have Amy and Deidre as coaches. They invested so much in our team, and motivated me to be a strong leader. One moment that stands out is our very last game. Our team knew we weren’t going to the playoffs, but I remember encouraging our team to fight until the end of the game anyways. Once we left the court, I felt a tear in my eye, and when I looked up, Deidre was there to give me a big hug, and whispered in my ear, ‘You fought all season. So proud of you, Mon." While she had said this to me before, that moment was extremely impactful, as that was my proudest season of any sport. Hearing one of my role models then, and still to this day, recognize that in me, it was really special.
The other would be Music Night 2012. I was lucky enough to help plan the event, and with it being my last big music event at Linden, outside of Celebration that year, it was really important to me to make that a fantastic event for all members of the Linden Community. Not only was it a time where I saw a lot of the students who I mentored and supported with their music goals perform amazing pieces, but it was the one and only time I decided to sing a solo, which was a really big moment for me as I struggled, and still struggle to this day, with stage fright. I owe a lot of this to Lindsay and Ian. I was really fortunate to have them as amazing teachers and mentors; they were very supportive of my love and passion for music.
Linden: Do you have any advice for Linden students who might have similar academic and career interests?
Monica: I would say to all Linden students, hold on to all the lessons you learn from Linden, and apply them wherever your next adventure takes you. Linden offers us so many unique learning opportunities, and many of us don’t always appreciate the impact of this until we leave. I learned a lot about the importance of resilience at Linden, and have continued to practice this not only during my time at Laurier, but every day since then.
The best advice I could share with anyone looking at the same academic path I took is to work hard, and be confident in your ideas. I loved the Communication Studies program at Laurier — I learned so much from that program. It really forced me to push myself and my critical thinking. When it comes to the work, please always do your readings, and proofread those assignments!
For anyone interested in working in Residence Life, you have to have a passion and love for this work like no other. There are so many aspects of my job that I never know how to explain to others. One second I’m baking cookies for my student staff and having some really meaningful conversations with them, the next minute I’m supporting a student who is in crisis, in need of significant support. It is a challenging job, but is truly rewarding. The best advice I could give is to be open to the opportunities that come your way. If this is something you really want to do, go for it, and don’t be afraid of moving if it means you can hold that opportunity. Had I not made a jump, I wouldn’t be here at the University of New Brunswick, which is where I have been pushed to new levels, and have met some of the most phenomenal people, and can truly say have found a level of happiness that I have never experienced before.
Monica has been a great addition to the residence community at the University of New Brunswick. She has shown dedication and resilience in her role as a Residence Life Coordinator, and has acted as a role model to all students. Monica has a warm and welcoming personality, and offers ongoing emotional and job role support. Monica’s leadership style is one of caring and encouraging her employees to be the best that they can be. We look forward to seeing what contributions she will bring to the residence community this upcoming year! We appreciate you!
—Conner and Katie Conner Sceviour, Lead Proctor for Joy W. Kidd House, and Katie Cripps, Lead Proctor for Lady Dunn Hall
When Mon asks ‘How’re you doing?’ it’s immediately apparent that her question is more than a formality. The immense amount of care and respect Mon has for her students is reflected in every interaction with her. Mon puts in the effort to ensure that her students have the support they need to thrive; not only as Residence Leaders, but as individuals as well. Her passion and enthusiasm have an invaluable impact on the UNB Residence community. Working with Mon as my RLC has been an incredible and rewarding experience.
—Evan Pugh, Educational Proctor, Aitken House
I was a resident at UNB my first year, was a part of the Mackenzie House Committee my second year and joined the student staff as an Educational Proctor in Tibbits Hall my third year. I am pursuing an undergraduate degree in Electrical Engineering as well as a diploma in Technology, Management and Entrepreneurship. Over the summer I am working at SNC-Lavalin, a global engineering services company. I will be returning for fall training in August to prepare for my role as Co-Lead/Co-Ed Proctor of Joy Kidd House during the final year of my undergraduate degree. Monica Geary is known to all of her student staff (including me) as Mon. I met Mon my first day of training in August, 2017. She introduced herself and explained how the role of Residence Life Coordinator (RLC), which had been modified and expanded over the summer, would impact all of the student leaders.
From the beginning, Mon was kind and thoughtful. It was evident that she cared for all of the staff working around her. This sweet, caring and invested personality only became more apparent as the year went on. Mon organized team bonding events, baked goods for all of us [her student staff], hosted movie nights and made personal connections with each and every one of the students she supported. Mon and I connected over our shared love of music and our similar pasts. The biggest impact Mon has had on me is that encouraged me all year to push myself in overcoming my anxiety on stage and supported throughout my journey. I went from playing in a room of 5 or 6 people to playing lots of small venues and performing in an auditorium of hundreds, something I thought I would never do. Something that makes Mon standout is that she has a habit of checking in with all of her student staff. She frequently asks us how we are doing and if there is anything that she can do better to support us. There is a phrase that has made Mon quite renowned among the student staff at UNB “...please let me know if you need anything at all.”
Over the eight months, I’ve had the pleasure of working with Mon, I’ve heard her say this to me and other students well as read it in emails hundreds of times. It has become increasingly apparent that she means every word of it. She’s always ready and willing to go above and beyond to support her student staff in whatever we may need. I had a fantastic year working under Mon and am fortunate to have her as my RLC for the coming year. I am excited to be working with Mon again for a number of reasons. Firstly, I know that she will encourage me to be the best I can be and to continue improving myself in areas that I feel less confident in. It is comforting to know that Mon will provide support when and if I require it. Additionally, she is good at communicating and keeping us informed, which is something I value. Her policies are transparent and she relays any information relevant to her student staff as soon it is available to her. This year Mon had the opportunity to select all of the student staff who will be working under her, I’m looking forward to getting to meet all of them and make new connections with the incoming student staff.
—Alex Roberts, Lead and Educational Proctor, Joy Kidd House