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Alumni in Focus

Nancy Desrosiers-HelmerInvesting in your potential pays dividends to more than yourself.

Returning to school changed Karen's life both personally and professionally as well as her daughter's aspirations.

Karen’s career had exposed her to numerous and diverse healthcare organizations by 2010 both within and outside of Canada. She held clinical and administrative through her career experience but was looking to increase her knowledge in business functions as well as reshape her systemic approach to a more strategic way of looking at key healthcare issues such as waitlists and chronic disease management.

Her interest and confidence to return to school peaked after auditing a course in a master’s program. She realized the value in expanding her knowledge and understanding how to use information in a different manner.  After researching her options and assessing her personal goals, Karen chose to enroll in the Telfer Executive MBA program in 2010.

During the program she was exposed to many different sectors, industries and cultures through the Signature Series of Six Business Consulting Projects.  She travelled to Silicon Valley for one week as a part of Innovation and Entrepreneurship, little did she know at the time that she would be relocating to the area for an inspiring career in just a few short years. 

One of her key memories of the program is travelling to Rio de Janerio in 2012 for the International Business Consulting Project where a walk on the beach with a few of her teammates transpired into a chance encounter with Leon Panetta, 23rd Secretary of Defence to the United States. “We pitched our client and product to Mr. Panetta on the beach” she explained in excitement when recalling the moment. “You realize how much you have learned and grown over the 11 months when you can pitch your idea efficiently on a beach in Rio to the Secretary of Defence in such a short time. It all comes together in moments like these”

After a gratifying career at The Ottawa Hospital, Karen stepped away in 2015 for a new career that was about to make a geographical and entrepreneurial shift when she accepted a position at Stanford Health Center in California as Director of Social Work and Case Management.   

It has been three year since her transition to Stanford and the organization is expanding her role to include Director for Spiritual Care and Aging Adult Service. She still credit’s the Telfer Executive MBA for opening the door for this opportunity, ‘Without the Telfer Executive MBA I don't think I would have landed this job!’ says Karen. She is also a guest lecturer at the Graduate School of Business at Stanford University, which she sees as of coming full circle for her, “Essentially the Telfer Executive MBA program gave me the confidence to develop my ideas and take on challenges which I did not feel ready to do before.“

One of the biggest return on her investment has been the example she has set for her daughter. After completing her undergraduate degree at Concordia, her daughter enrolled in a graduate program at Columbia University in New York City. “There is no way she would have pushed towards entrance to an Ivy League School if she had not watched my career unfold in the US!” She reminds Karen that watching her mom commit herself to the 21 month degree, how hard Karen worked as well as how much fun she had while doing it, helped her to make her own educational decisions. “It’s hard work but so very gratifying!” Says Karen.

Register now for our online session on Women Driving Change on March 8 beginning at 12:00 PM EST to hear more from Karen about her experience in the Telfer Executive MBA program.

Stories in the Series: 

Dr. Roth  Nancy Desrosiers  Karen Nelson  Julie Lupinacci Nicole Proulx  Dr. Roth 


Working together as a team...extended the value far beyond academic knowledge. The synergy achieved within the team fostered the development of the fundamental principles for success in any organization.
Heidi Vincent, EMBA 1999, Owner, GreenLane Communications