McMaster graduate on juggling academics with being a frontline care worker during the pandemic

A tight shot of the faces of a woman and dog

Michelle Jamieson with her dog Bowie

It wasn’t the most straightforward of starts to university life for Michelle Jamieson, who is graduating this Spring with from the Health, Aging and Society program.  

That’s because, at the height of the pandemic in September 2020, she started her academic career in Social Sciences at McMaster while also working in a retirement home.  

The resilience she demonstrated juggling classes with caring for residents, working at various community non-profits — and even starting her own business — will make crossing the Convocation stage on June 12 all that much more special.  


“It was stressful,” admits Jamieson, talking about the start of her Mac journey while working at a local retirement home during the pandemic. 

Worried about bringing Covid home to her parents, Jamieson took the difficult decision to move out and in with her partner.  

Disease control policies at the retirement home were constantly changing and staff shortages added to the challenging circumstances. But Jamieson and her colleagues were committed to providing the best care to residents, coming up with creative ideas to support the residents, including a treat cart and virtual programming with iPads. 

“I definitely did get a sense of pride from sticking through it and being there to support the residents because a lot of a lot of them were very socially isolated and feeling that same kind of anxiety,” said Jamieson. 


And she wasn’t just proud of her work at the care home, but how she was able to commit to her studies. 

“My proudest achievement is successfully completing all my course requirements on the first attempt while also balancing work and home life. There were times where I seriously struggled to juggle all my commitments and doubted whether or not I would be successful in specific courses,” said Jamieson. 

She found she was able to lean on support services at McMaster. “I am proud of myself for reaching out for supports when needed, including one-on-ones with teaching assistants and meetings with academic advisors,” she said.  

She accessed support from Student Accessibility Services, sought counseling services and was eligible for a grant to be able to obtain a new laptop. 

When students were allowed back onto campus, Jamieson found a vibrant, welcoming atmosphere at McMaster which she relished. 

“I thought it was really nice to have that inclusive environment, where no matter what your background is or where you come from, there’s somewhere where you belong,” she said. 


One of the reasons that Jamieson was attracted to McMaster was the opportunity to take the concurrent business certificate with Mohawk College alongside her Social Sciences degree. 

Jamieson said she really benefited from the hands-on, practical experience she gained at the college which fit perfectly alongside the theoretical, research-based knowledge she gained at McMaster.  

And it helped that the faculty members at McMaster were so engaging. “The professors were really, really great and you could tell that a lot of them were very passionate about what they taught,” she said. 

The opportunity to take the business certificate helped Jamieson when she used funding from the Brant Business Resource Centre to start her own business, Golden Age Management, helping older adults navigate health, wellness and change throughout the aging process. 

She also spent time as a program coordinator at Brant Skills Centre, a small non-profit and had a permanent position at the Hamilton Alzheimer Society as the social programs coordinator.  

She also pitched the “Active Aging Social Club” at Laurier LaunchPad’s Community Changemakers program, receiving funding to start an inclusive, accessible, non-tasked based, free and age-friendly social club in Brantford. 


Jamieson has been busy during her time at McMaster, and she’s looking forward to having more free time after she’s crossed the Convocation stage, but just like the past four years, she’s not slowing down. 

“I’m currently enrolled in the Starter Company grant program with the Brantford-Brant Business Resource Centre. I’ll be presenting my pitch this fall and hopefully securing more funding to invest in my business,” she said. 

“Also, I got engaged during my time at Mac, and I plan to spend my time on wedding planning!” 

Before she leaves, she has advice for anyone considering McMaster and the Health, Aging and Society program. 

“The program is excellent for employment opportunities,” she said. “It’s the kind of program that you can’t really go wrong with because it gives you such valuable and transferable knowledge and skills. 

“The campus is such a good place to explore because there’s so much available that you might not even know unless you do some digging and exploring and searching. And that goes for the courses that are available, the support from the professors and the TA’s, the different groups, even down to the different food places that are available. There’s so much to explore.”

Click here for stories, videos and highlights from Spring 2024 convocation ceremonies and celebration events 

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