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How Suzanne Casey-Gee ’16 has thrived from Maine all the way to Ireland

February 23, 2024

Welcome back to Turning Point! In case you are new here, we interview Bowdoin alumni and Mainers to hear about the experiences that shaped their twenties and allow them to share their stories with current Bowdoin students to hopefully provide some reassurance that, one way or another, we, too, will land on our feet.

Career Exploration and Development’s (CXD) Alumni Networking List is a goldmine for students looking to network—it offers hundreds of contacts who have all ventured outside the “Bowdoin Bubble” and made their way in the larger world.

In our inaugural column, we envisioned a networking call with someone—anyone—who might tell us everything will be okay. This week, we made that call.

We reached out to Suzanne Casey-Gee ’16. While we were perched in Coles Tower, Casey-Gee was phoning in from her home in Cork, Ireland, where she studied abroad while at Bowdoin and eventually relocated post-graduation.

Casey-Gee was a biology major and a Gender, Sexuality and Women’s Studies (GSWS) minor who has always been passionate about the culinary arts.

“I was always a scientist. I actually started my freshman year thinking I would go into dietetics. My mother and my grandmother were both nurses, and my aunt was a science teacher. That was how I was raised,” Casey-Gee said.

Today, Casey-Gee works as a general manager of VEVO Coffee Roasters in Cork, Ireland, a company of only 15 people. She finds herself using her biology degree to run research and development, while also managing marketing and ecommerce operations.

Our biggest take away since starting this column is that nobody’s twenties are perfect. Things are constantly changing, and we’re all worried whether we are doing the right thing, but if we stay true to ourselves and the things that we love, we will thrive.

C+E: Tell us a little bit about your time at Bowdoin.

SCG: I’m originally from Worcester, Massachusetts. I was extremely nervous when I started Bowdoin. I was worried that I wasn’t quite smart enough to be at Bowdoin, and that there would be all these intelligent people around who are going to be far more qualified than me—which was true, but I quickly found an amazing group of friends and a great support network at Bowdoin. My freshman year roommates are my best friends to this very day. Two of us got married this year, and both of us were in each other’s weddings. I had a broad range of interests: I was a biology major, and I focused on microbiology wherever I could. I was also a minor in GSWS. I worked on campus managing the student employment and financial aid office. One of the best things about Bowdoin was being able to get my hands on everything, and that gave me a broad perspective over the four years.

C+E: What was your first job out of college?

SCG: So I started working at a vineyard, both in a tasting room and doing some agricultural work. I had been doing that for quite a few summers and loved it. When I moved to Ireland, I just wanted stability. I had been working in food service since I was 16. So I found a job in a cafe and kind of worked my way up through there. It’s the same company that I am working at now, but now in a kind of a different generation.

C+E: What drew you to culinary arts and winemaking?

SCG: I have always loved cooking and food. My grandmother was a great cook! Now I have so many cookbooks that I will read cover to cover. I have always loved the aspect of making something. Winemaking stemmed from a lot of that, but I love working with my hands and making things. To me it was a great mix between my love of food, flavor and tastes, and a lot of the practical, kind of nerdy, science that I enjoy. Being able to kind of take two worlds and put them together was appealing.

C+E: How do you feel like you use your degree in Biology?

SCG: I had a lot of fun over the last 18 months where we got to develop a new product, a functional coffee. So we’ve been working with Glanbia Nutritionals, which is an Irish company, but it’s now multinational, and they developed a heat-soluble whey protein isolate. And we’ve blended that with our coffee so that you can brew coffee, and you get 12 grams of protein which is super cool. We’re excited. But we don’t have an R&D team: There’s 15 of us. So I was essentially the R&D team. So I got to work with some of the labs. I could interpret the results which was helpful and useful.

C+E: Was there a turning point for you during college/your twenties?

SCG: Moving to Ireland.

C+E: What led to your move to Ireland?

SCG: I studied abroad in Cork. I was looking for a wine program that would kind of work within the framework of Bowdoin study abroad, which was quite difficult, but I ended up doing a lot of work with food microbiology. I met my partner when I studied abroad, and he is from Cork, Ireland. When I graduated from Bowdoin, I started the Enology and Viticulture Master’s Program through UC Davis, which is a completely online course that takes about two and a half years to complete. I wasn’t tied to staying in the States, and I said, “Sure, I’ll move to Ireland for a year while I work on this course, and I just never left.”

C+E: How would you describe your twenties in a few words?

SCG: Travel, travel, travel! And constantly wondering where my life was going.

C+E: What advice would you give to your 20-year-old self?

SCG: Trust that you’ll land on your feet. I had such a good kind of baseline to work off of, and I had so many great skills that I learned from college through campus jobs, clubs and taking interdisciplinary courses. Just take everything that comes, trust that you’ll end on your feet and you’ll figure it out.

C+E: So you’ve clearly been at this company for a while, can you tell us what you do right now and your current title?

SCG: I’m the general manager of VEVO Coffee Roasters which started as Cafe Veilleux, a small cafe in Cork City. About a year and a half after I started working there I was managing the cafe, and the owner came to me and said, “I want to roast coffee.” So we started roasting coffee from there. In Ireland, we have a program called Grow with Aldi. Aldi stores run a small suppliers program, so we moved coffee through those stores. And we did well! So we’ve been supplying Ireland nationwide since 2018. I left for about a year and a half to get out of food service and see if there was something else out there for me. And when Covid hit in March 2020, the owner sold the cafe and moved the entire grocery business to its own purpose-built facility outside the city. He gave me a random call and asked me if I wanted to work in an ecommerce roastery and do some marketing, which I had no experience in. But my job was ending. I didn’t know what was going to happen in terms of work. So I said “Yeah, sure, no problem. I’ll give it a go with you.”


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One comment:

  1. Cole Crawford '20 (CXD) says:

    A great way to utilize CXD’s networking list! Students can access this resource for themselves via Handshake. Visit Handshake -> Bowdoin College Career Center -> Resources -> Alumni Networking List to get the link.

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