Thirteen years after a skating accident, Carey not only returned to ice but back to the classroom.
Meaghan Haugh

In 2004, Deborah Carey competed in the U.S. Adult Figure Skating Championships at Lake Placid, N.Y., where she placed second out of 45 skaters in the Adult Silver Ladies Class II competition. Carey, who discovered the hobby as a young adult, considers the title to be one of the highlights of her life.

At the end of this semester, Carey will again stand triumphant when she completes her Master of Business Administration requirements from Rider University. But just like the graceful curves that Carey’s skates trace on the surface of the ice, the path she took to complete her degree was not a straight line.

Carey, who has a background in chemistry, began her career as a dietitian at a small inner city hospital in Trenton, before starting work at Johnson & Johnson in 1991. In order to deepen her understanding of the business field, Carey immediately took advantage of J&J’s continuing studies program by researching graduate programs in the area.

“I found that the Rider’s Lawrenceville campus was not only close to home, but had a nice community feel and great academic programs,” said Carey, who started taking classes while working full time at J&J’s New Brunswick, N.J., campus.

Carey was three years into the MBA program and had just started a summer session class when her plans began to melt. Carey, who had begun figure skating as a hobby a few years prior, was practicing at Ice Land in Hamilton when she slipped and fell while doing a double jump, breaking both the bones in her lower leg. Since the injury would require multiple surgeries followed by months of physical therapy, Carey decided to withdraw from her summer and fall classes. She fully intended to return to Rider in a year.

“Well, a semester turned into a year, which turned into 13 years later,” she said. “After 13 years of having my dad gently remind me that I had unfinished business, I decided to investigate the possibility of returning to Rider to finish what I had started.”

In the summer of 2008, Carey met with John Farrell, assistant dean of Rider’s Graduate and Professional Programs. Carey remembers how nervous she was to meet with Farrell, daunted by the idea of having to retake the Graduate Management Admission Test and additional classes.

“Life was also different this time around. I had a 7-year-old, a full-time job, two dogs and a figure skating hobby that would make it that much more challenging to be in school,” Carey said. “I worried about both the workload and the subject matter.”

Instead, Carey, who re-enrolled in the program in the fall of 2008, said Farrell and her professors were very supportive.

“Despite having been gone 13 years, certain things about Rider haven’t changed — the high quality of the professors and the wonderful students. The MBA program is top notch,” she said. “It’s been such a great experience coming back.”

In fact, Carey said the transition back to graduate school has been “seamless” and it has helped her in her current position at Ortho McNeil Janssen Pharmaceutical Services. As a senior analyst in the Sample Reconciliations department she conducts analytics on the return of the company’s drug samples, tracks sample distribution and serves a systems lead for the department’s computers. Carey has made presentations about the importance of graduate education to her coworkers and has even motivated a colleague to return to school.

“The knowledge that I have gained from the MBA program has already helped me tremendously because it has enabled me to look at the business as a whole,” she said. “It actually is fun, the subject matter that you are learning. Once you have it, you have it. No one can take it away from you.”