by Meredith Dault
Always passionate about the environment, Paul Carey knew he wanted his life's work to make a difference in the world. That's why when he finished his undergraduate degree in philosophy, Carey went on to earn a law degree, intent on pursuing a career as an environmental lawyer.
But after he was hired on with a corporate commercial law firm, Carey, 30, realized he was on the wrong path. "I was passionate about the environment, and I wanted my job to be aligned with that - and it wasn't." To get back on-track, the Winnipeg native came to Queen's to begin his Master's degree in Environmental Studies.
Carey, who admits he didn't know much about Queen's at the outset, says he was drawn to the feel of the university and to the fact that it was a small program. "The smaller, close-knit student body was definitely a selling feature," says Carey. He was also drawn to the fact that the program takes an interdisciplinary approach. "I thought that was vital. I didn't want to be in a silo. That's why Queen's appealed to me more than other institutions."
With two degrees already under his belt, Carey admits the decision to go back to school was a tough one. "It was certainly one of the biggest decisions of my life," he says honestly, "but working in law...I was finding it increasingly hard to maintain a balanced lifestyle."
The decision paid off. Carey, who graduated in 2008, now works as a policy liaison officer with the Ministry of National Resources. "I work on policy geared towards the management of Ontario's natural resources," says Carey. Some of his current work involves far-north land-use planning, which he says involves things like figuring out "how best to manage resource exploitation without exceeding the carrying capacity of the earth, and how to do so in unison with First Nations groups. It's a phenomenally complex issue in terms of stakeholders."
Carey says his degree from Queen's was fundamental to helping him get his job. "Oh, there's no doubt," he laughs, "Queen's does have a good reputation, which I came to learn very quickly!" He is still in regular contact with his classmates, many of whom also live and work in Toronto. "The program attracted people of different ages and different backgrounds - we had debates with fine arts students and philosophers and engineers...it was really a very unique environment and I got to know all the students really well."
For Carey, the decision to go back to school has more than paid off. "It was my dream to have a job linked to the environment...it's something I believe strongly in. I wanted to be linked in to environmental preservation, and I wasn't finding that in the legal profession. I knew I needed to increase my environmental education. And Queen's allowed me to do that."