Bachelor of Management graduate follows her own path to convocation
After taking an 8-year break from school, Danica McKinnon was awarded the 2022 Governor General’s Silver Medal
Sometimes following the obvious path does not make it the right one. That was the case for Danica McKinnon (Bachelor of Management ’22), recipient of the Governor General’s Silver Medal.
McKinnon was in her first year of studies at the University of Alberta (U of A) and on track to go into medical school when she had an important realization that “just because you’re good at something doesn’t mean that you enjoy it.”
At the time, McKinnon knew so many people who had done their degrees, hated their field, and never used their degree again.
“I didn’t want to do that,” she explained, nor did she want to invest so much time and energy in a dream that she knew was not meant for her.
She decided to face the current, complete her school year, and then take a year to volunteer and give back.
“Just because you’re good at something doesn’t mean that you enjoy it. ”– Danica McKinnon, Bachelor of Management '22 graduate
An unexpected return from volunteering
McKinnon enjoyed volunteering for the missionary and not-for-profit, NET Canada so much that she ended up volunteering for 2 years before officially starting her first full-time professional career as team supervisor and later being promoted to program coordinator and leadership team member. Through this experience, McKinnon was introduced to key concepts on leadership, management, and organizational structure, and a spark was ignited.
While McKinnon knew that business administration was the educational path for her, she also knew that with no financial obligations or relationship commitments, this was her time to travel and live abroad before officially restarting her educational journey. So, she took off to Ireland.
“I realized that [AU] was a much better fit for the life that I wanted to live at the time. And in hindsight, it was the best choice I could have possibly made!”– Danica McKinnon
Near the end of McKinnon’s 2-year stay in Ireland, she began exploring her university options. She investigated several universities in Ontario and Alberta. While each was highly respected, none offered the flexibility that McKinnon wanted. At that point in McKinnon’s life—she was almost 10 years older than most people going into a traditional university—she was not looking for the campus experience; she was just after the education.
After resigning herself to the fact that she had to go back to the classroom, she heard about AU and knew that she had found the right fit with the Bachelor of Management program.
“I realized that [AU] was a much better fit for the life that I wanted to live at the time. And in hindsight, it was the best choice I could have possibly made!”
While McKinnon had managed to gain some work experience in her desired field, she knew that without a degree she could not accelerate it. Attending AU made it possible for her to continue building on her resume while attending her studies. “I think with a traditional university, your class schedule and your deadlines are more set. You’re more constrained [with your work]. But having AU’s flexibility allowed me to be able to still love that part of my life and be able to get my education at the same time,“ she said.
There have also been a few re-affirming moments along the way, the biggest one being the onset of COVID-19 and its impact on the education system. McKinnon had friends who had also gone back to school around the same time and had to re-adjust when the pandemic hit. “It kind of felt like we were a step ahead of the game at AU,” she said.
“Being able to go back [to school] and then show … you can still be driven later in life, and that you don't have to follow the conventional path as a way of doing things was very sweet and felt like it wrapped up a whole journey that I had been on for a very long time.”– Danica McKinnon
Coming full circle
For most people who knew McKinnon, leaving school to volunteer for a year seemed like a very counterproductive move. Many people doubted that she would ever go back. So, when she was recently awarded the Governor General’s Silver Medal Award, given to those with the highest grade-point average, it was a tremendous honour and a great ending to all the sacrifices she had to make along the way. It proved to her—and to others, she hopes—that success can be achieved at any age.
“Being able to go back [to school] and then show … you can still be driven later in life, and that you don’t have to follow the conventional path as a way of doing things was very sweet and felt like it wrapped up a whole journey that I had been on for a very long time.”
McKinnon recently started her dream job as a consulting analyst for the global firm, Accenture, and has a baby on the way. Her future is looking bright and full of opportunities as she enters the next chapter of her life.