From Long Island to Scotland: How an MCLA Alumna Overcame Academic Hurdles

When Casey Messina ‘18 graduated from high school on Long Island, college was something she didn’t consider until experiencing an overnight event for accepted students at MCLA.

In 2014 she started to pursue a degree at MCLA in entrepreneurship but failed her first semester. After a second try and a change in major to business administration in the spring 2015 semester, Messina became very ill and couldn’t complete her courses. Messina3

Messina returned to school in good health the next semester and eventually walked at graduation, however, she fell short of two courses to receive a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration. Without that, Messina said she struggled to land a job that fed her soul and later completed the courses she needed to graduate.

Now Messina is studying for a master’s degree at Edinburgh Napier University and working for Diageo, one of the largest liquor distributors in the world, at the Johnnie Walker Princess Street Experience as an experience support assistant.

“It is honestly mind-blowing to think that I am the same person who failed out of MCLA and graduated by the skin of my teeth,” Messina said.

“During the pandemic, it became possible for Casey to finish her degree virtually and she did so with outstanding success. In fact, she was my best student in Managerial Accounting that semester,” said Tara Barboza, Associate Professor of Accounting at MCLA.

Barboza taught Messina at MCLA and supported her through her journey and even wrote a recommendation letter for Messina’s master’s degree program.


“Barboza is so helpful and I did really well in that last class. After working in a career [post-MCLA], I became serious about my education. I realized how all of the distractions you have when you’re first in college weren’t that important,” Messina said. “I thought I knew what I wanted to do after high school. I wish I would have waited to go to college because I would have cared about school, but then again, if I waited then I probably wouldn’t have gone.”

Because Messina quickly got involved in event planning during off-campus organizations at MCLA, she fell in love with the industry. Since moving to Scotland over one year ago, she’s had the opportunity to work with the Edinburgh Festival Fringe – the largest arts festival in the world. Messina has family in Ireland and holds a residency, which is why she broadened her search for graduate school in the United Kingdom.

“It has been such an amazing experience. I have received outstanding grades in my courses, two of which I have earned distinction level grades in, and am on track to graduate in April with my Master's degree,” she said.

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One of Messina’s interests in the event planning industry is immersive art experiences, such as the traveling Van Gogh Immersive Art Exhibition – which she worked on for three days–which is now the focus of her dissertation: "Immersive Event Experiences and Attendee Satisfaction: A Quantitative Analysis Using Canon as Authenticity.”

“Because of the emerging nature of this topic I have been asked to publish my dissertation upon its completion,” she said.

Messina plans to return to the states this May to spend time with family, but then will work full time in the event planning world upon returning to the U.K.