Shirley Seward’s decision to join CUSO as a young teacher in her early 20s completely changed her personal and professional life.
“Going abroad was mind blowing,” says Seward. “It was an experience that turned everything on its head and set me off on a completely different path.”
Back in Canada after teaching for two years in the Caribbean, Seward obtained her Masters degree in International Development from Carleton University. From there, she joined the International Development Research Centre (IDRC) where she worked on population and economic development issues for countries around the world. That is where she also met her husband.
After a stint in politics, and with the Institute for Research on Public Policy (IRPP), she became CEO of the Canadian Labour and Business Centre. For the next 15 years, Seward helped guide the organization towards international work.
“I’m not sure they would have focused on the international component had I not gone abroad with CUSO,” she says.
After adopting her two daughters from China, Seward became involved with their school and was twice elected school trustee. She is now the Chair of the Ottawa-Carleton District School Board where she has championed the development of the International Certificate program in secondary schools.
“Someone once told me it’s not just what you’re doing abroad that’s important, it’s what it will do to you, and to your country when you get back,” says Seward. “Those are words I wish I could tell everyone.”