Convocation: President’s Medal winner says whole family deserves credit

When President’s Medal winner Sharon Ann Benson was in her late 40s, she decided she needed to cross “getting a degree” off her bucket list, and she needed to do it by the time she was 50. Well, she just made it!

Now 51, Benson explains that her studies at Carleton began four years ago, part time, when she “just dipped my toes in by taking a writing course.”

A 30-year veteran director and writer for film, television, video and print, Benson spent years dreaming about the opportunity to read, study and share ideas in a more structured environment.

Her original plan was to finish an undergraduate degree in English and then go on to teacher’s college. But her innate love of plants and animals drew her to a natural history class taught by naturalist Michael Runtz.

“His enthusiasm for the wonders of the natural world was so infectious that I decided to tackle a minor in biology. It was interesting to mix the two disciplines,” says Benson.

“There are similar components, like the interrogation of text, and it pleased my temperament to take both.”

While she feels honoured to win the President’s Medal, Benson points out, “It feels like something the whole family deserves. It recognizes the hard work I have put in over the last four years, but it is also a tribute to the sacrifices my husband and daughter made so I could pursue this dream.”

Benson also credits the support she received from Carleton’s English Department. “My experience at Carleton has been everything I hoped for. I never encountered professors who were anything but supportive.”

With her first degree off the bucket list, Benson is now working as a teaching assistant and has begun her master’s studies in English. “I am focusing on a relatively new field of study called eco-criticism. It’s the perfect way to exercise both my loves in one field.”

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Susan Hickman

By Susan Hickman

For nearly four decades, journalist Susan Hickman has written about every imaginable subject for sundry newspapers and magazines in Canada and abroad, as well as for CBC TV and CBC Radio. She has also managed various publications, including academic newspapers and technology magazines, and was recently commissioned to write a guide for foreign missions serving in Canada. Currently, she is working on a couple of personal memoirs.

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