Alyson Huntly: Finding Your Dream Career in Unexpected Places
by Christine Elie
As an alumna from the Faculty of Education, Alyson Huntly has found her dream career as Director of Pastoral Studies and Field Education for the United Theological College in Montreal. Her job dynamically combines two of her passions: academic development and theoretical work in education. She credits the doctoral program with giving her the skills and formation necessary: “the PhD program is very much about professional formation, they fit closer than you would necessarily think.”
When Alyson Huntly began her studies in the department of Education at Queen’s, she did not intend to begin a doctorate. It was in her supervisor, Rebecca Luce-Kapler, that Alyson found both the encouragement and inspiration to embark on her doctoral work on the role of narrative in meaning and identity formation for individuals and communities. Luce-Kapler was more than a supervisor to Alyson, she was a mentor in every sense of the word, “mentoring was what I needed at a particular point to push me through.”
Alyson arrived at Queen’s with a Master’s in Theological Studies from St. Andrew’s College in Saskatoon. She knew that she wanted to work on a framework for theological work in education. Alyson planned to do one course at Queen’s. This all changed when she met her supervisor Luce-Kapler who encouraged her to apply for more graduate work.
Entering the Faculty of Education without a formal background in the field could be stressful to some, but Alyson claims that the Queen’s faculty had “a space for those not coming out of education.” With peers from a variety of disciplines, Alyson states that this was a definite positive attribute of the program: “I was more able to pursue my own leaning within the Educational Faculty.”
Alyson also claims that while the process can be more challenging as a mature student it definitely had its advantages. She believes that the experience becomes more personal – with age and experience came the flexibility to engage in the work that she wanted to do and “adventure in without a rigid plan, Queen’s allowed me to work on the pieces that I needed.” While she was initially concerned, she soon found that there was a community of mature students from a variety of disciplines.
Among the reasons she chose Queen’s to pursue her doctorate was the financial assistance they offered. She credits the support that the University offered in preparing fellowship and grant applications. Alyson believes that it was in part due to the hands-on approach of the university in assisting and encouraging her Social Science and Humanities Research Council of Canada fellowship application that she was able to receive the financial support necessary to immerse herself completely in her academic work.
Alyson knew that she wanted a job that involved educational formation. Amongst the experiences that she most appreciated, she lauds the opportunity to do teaching through the education department – by her second year she had decided that she wanted to continue teaching – but she was concerned with embarking on the job hunt. Weary of the process, Alyson wanted to take a different path with her degree. She claimed that she “didn’t necessarily want to do what a younger person would do – work as a professor and try to be tenure track.”
Nearing the end of her Doctoral work, she was not actively looking for an academic position. When the position opened up at the United Theological College in Montreal, she was asked to apply. Her role at the United Theological College centres on educational formation for those aspiring to be ministers. She is currently using both the skills and formation that she learnt from her supervisor to inspire and encourage her own students. Her job has a fairly heavy teaching load and she claims that “there was for me a sense that this was the dream job.”