Creating a space for all

Madeleine Durocher’s post-secondary experiences showed her the importance of living authentically and serving with purpose

Jumping into the water for her final chance to qualify for U Sports — the champion event for varsity swimming — Madeleine Durocher felt at peace. 

As a first-year university student, Durocher struggled to balance in-the-pool training (which included nine practices a week plus rigorous gym training) with a fulltime class schedule, and she found herself feeling stressed and anxious about having not yet qualified along with her teammates. 

When she saw how her teammates showed up to support and lift her up — regardless of the outcome — Durocher realized that the race result mattered less than the experience itself. 

Despite her challenges, she surprised herself by touching the wall five seconds faster than the qualifying time.

 “That was one of my favourite moments of my whole career,” said Durocher. “I had all that positivity around me and was surrounded by people who really cared about me and wanted me to succeed — regardless of the outcome.”

She carried that teamwork mentality with her as the co-founder of the Indigenous Business Students Association (IBSA),  a student group focused on offering a community to Indigenous students in the faculty.

Increased representation in business

As the newest student club in the faculty, IBSA was created to address issues of representation amongst Indigenous students within the school. When Michelle Inness and Leo Wong — deans of undergraduate students and education respectively — first approached Durocher and co-founder Bianca Dumonceaux about leading this initiative, there were only a handful of self-identifying Indigenous students in the faculty. 

After less than a year, Durocher and Dumonceaux have built a safe and supportive community for Indigenous business students while raising awareness about Indigenous representation in the industry.

“As one of the co-founders, Madeleine worked tirelessly to get the association up and running and set it up for great success,” says Inness. “She’s a person of integrity and someone who is willing to do the work necessary to get a job done.”

“Creating a space for current and prospective Indigenous students to feel like their identities are seen, appreciate and celebrated has been wonderful, and the support we’ve gotten from the faculty has been huge,” says Durocher, adding that through her experience with IBSA, she’s found ways to connect more deeply and meaningfully with her Métis heritage.

“It’s been great to see the ripple effect into my family as well,” says Durocher, who has two younger brothers. “It’s gone from something that was this unspoken topic in our household to a vital part of my identity we can talk about and celebrate.”

A lesson in leadership

In her third year at the U of A,  Durocher applied for and later joined the Alberta School of Business Leadership Certificate Program, a decision she says altered the trajectory of her career — and her perspective on what it means to be a leader — thanks to immersive work experience that cemented her love of public service and dedicated mentors.

“Oftentimes in leadership or management, there is more of a focus placed on the role itself,” says Durocher, who’s always possessed a passion for leadership (she was always involved in student council).

“It’s very important to focus on everyone’s unique contributions and skillset while lifting people up to make sure all voices are heard at the table.”

She completed a board internship with the Winspear Centre in Edmonton and has volunteered as a swim coach with the U of A Steadward Centre, coaching para-athletes. She’s currently on the board for Aksis, Edmonton’s Indigenous Business and Professional Association. 

“Madeleine is a consummate leader and is willing to invest her time, energy, heart and soul in the things she believes in and that make a positive difference to the community,” says Inness.

Durocher recently started a new position as policy analyst with the Department of Energy with the Government of Alberta. As she makes the transition away from academia to her career, Durocher is committed to staying connected to her purpose: to live authentically, serve as a leader and make a significant contribution to society.. 

“I don’t want to focus on advancing my own self-interest,” says Durocher. “I want to make decisions that benefit the community I’m a part of and that I may be able to benefit in a positive way.”

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