June 14, 2019

Class of 2019: Continuing Ed student overcomes personal loss to graduate with new credentials

Mariama Barry is one of 658 Continuing Education grads who completed certificates and diplomas this year

Continuing Education students are great examples of how lifelong learning can open doors and give career changers a boost in the right direction. Such was the case for Mariama Barry. 

Pictured above, from left are Chancellor Deborah Yedlin, President Ed McCauley, Mariama Barry, Provost Dru Marshall, Continuing Education director Sheila LeBlanc, and UCalgary senators Jackie Engstrom and Tim Meagher.

In 2017, Barry took a bold step toward a new career by enrolling in Continuing Education’s Certificate in Business Intelligence and Analytics.

Starting the program was a decision that Barry and her husband, Raf Moussa, made together. Sadly, just a few months later, Moussa passed away. Despite this sudden and unexpected turn of events, Barry dug deep and carried on with her classes, more determined than ever to complete the program.

“It had become even more important to finish,” she says. “I realized that now I would be supporting my son on my own.”

Originally from West Africa, Barry had emigrated to France when she was 17, then moved to Montreal for work in 2010. Together, Moussa and Barry settled in Calgary in 2012 and started a family.

Barry had graduated from a French university with a bachelor’s degree in law and a master’s degree in political science. But to pursue a law career in Canada, Barry would have had to return to university full time — something she wasn’t prepared to do with a young son at home. She took a job as an administrative assistant, but was keen to find a new field.

Changing careers and moving into a technical field was daunting at first.

To begin with, she chose classroom courses because her husband was home and could care for their son. By the time her second course started, Barry and her son were on their own. A family friend visited and helped out while she completed that course, after which Barry switched to online learning.

Through sheer determination, and the support of her friend and her instructors, she was able to complete the certificate in just one year. In some ways, she says, the work was a welcome distraction from her grief.

Now that she has completed her program, Barry is excited and ready to find employment in the growing tech field.

“These programs are perfect for people like me who need a way to get their foot in the door,” she says

In the meantime, she has started a "passion project" — a non-profit organization that provides the information and connections she needed when her husband passed away. It’s her hope that it will make other people’s times of grief easier.  

Barry is one of 658 Continuing Education graduates who completed certificates and diplomas this year. On June 12, graduates and their guests celebrated their accomplishments and commitment to lifelong learning at the Red and White Club. The ceremony was emceed by Continuing Education director Sheila LeBlanc. Chancellor Deborah Yedlin and President Ed McCauley brought messages of congratulations to the graduates, and Provost Dru Marshall as well as members of the senate handed out scholarships and awards to 20 recipients.

University of Calgary Continuing Education is dedicated to providing adult learners with high-quality, personal and professional development learning opportunities and in this way, integrating the university with the community. Together, we strengthen our community and our university.