Jenna McDonald

Jenna McDonald

What education have you taken?

I graduated from Crocus Plains Regional Secondary School in 2011, where I took classes in fine arts and completed a vocational in commercial art. I briefly attended ACC for Interactive Media Arts before deciding art was something I would like to do as a hobby, but not a career. I worked for a year, and after a lot of thought, I decided to apply at Brandon University. I was originally enrolled in the Physical Education program due to an interest in health and wellness, but after taking Introduction to Psychology with Dr. Gadbois, I knew I needed to switch majors and pursue what I was more passionate about. Aside from psychology I have a minor in drawing, where I am able to channel my creative energy, and a second minor in Gender Studies which I decided to add to my degree after being inspired by Dr. Mason’s introductory course.

What accomplishments are you proud of?

I’m very proud to have had many opportunities in my time at BU to volunteer and contribute to campus projects. I think the volunteer work I am most grateful for is my involvement in the Sexualized Assault Advisory Committee where I am able to bring a student perspective to BU’s newly developed policy and procedure. Carla Navid (the Sexual Violence, Education and Prevention Coordinator) works hard to get students like me involved and has done so much to improve BU’s approach to sexualized violence. She is a role model for me alongside the professors mentioned above. I value having a say in a document that addresses an issue so close to my heart, and the chance to ensure the policy is survivor centred and recognizes the reality of sexualized assault and harassment at Brandon University. The volunteer work that I do through the Brandon section of the Revolutionary Student Movement has allowed me to organize with others on radical student activism. In the past school year, I have been focusing my activism on combating anti-choice groups regarding abortion and reproductive rights, as well as opposing the emerging issue of white supremacy, nationalism and anti-immigration sentiments on campus. I strongly believe that posters and opinions, which deny the rights and safety of students, should not be allowed by BU or go unchallenged by the student body. I also volunteer as a Peer Wellness Educator, where I assist the Campus Wellness Coordinator Trevor McIntyre with various events around campus aimed at improving the wellbeing of students. I enjoy brightening people’s day through these events and am grateful for the incredible training I received through the Peer Wellness Volunteer program. Outside of BU, I work at Smitten Adult Boutique where I absolutely love bringing a sex positive and 2SLGBTIQ+ approach to the job. I truly appreciate Smitten’s choice to provide a variety of inclusive merchandise for all kinds of bodies and couples, as well as gender affirming products. I am proud to be part of such an incredible business that maintains a strong emphasis on sexual health, education and support for the 2SLGBTIQ+ community.

I also work as a casual crisis counsellor at the women’s shelter. My experience there has taught me much about how the theories I study play out in the lives of those in the community. I continuously learn so much from the counsellors and clients who stay there. It can be emotionally challenging at times, but it is so rewarding to support those who have made the incredibly difficult decision to leave an abusive relationship and construct a new life for themselves and their children.

Tell me about yourself.

As a teenager, I struggled with several forms of mental illness and tough situations, which held me back from achieving my potential in many ways. I barely graduated and for a long time I did not see a future for myself after high school. I did not have much support or resources for dealing with these issues at the time. It was a long and challenging process to become who I am now, and I never imagined I’d be such a successful student. I think it is important to mention this here because these profiles highlight our most rewarded work, but I would not want to conceal the hardships these accomplishments have emerged from. I now believe that my difficult experiences are an important tool and motivating force behind the type of work I pursue.

How did you became Interested in your field of study?

I have always been fascinated by human behavior and how to go about explaining various human phenomenon. I spent a lot of time wondering about why people thought in certain ways and I was amazed to learn the prevailing theories after giving so much thought to the subject. I was initially concerned that psychology would be too tough for me, but with a strong work ethic and genuine interest in the field, I found myself excelling at the subject and eventually tutoring, marking and doing research for the psychology department. I also had an interested in sex/gender and became drawn towards feminism as I got older. It wasn’t until I began taking classes that I developed a deeper understanding of these issues and realised that gender is everywhere if you look for it, but often goes unquestioned. Being a woman has affected so many aspects of my life that I had not seriously considered, until I was challenged to take a more critical view. I began learning about the ways various systems of oppression intersect and deeply influence people’s experiences. I was captivated by the knowledge and wanted to learn more.

What is your philosophy in life?

My philosophy in life is always changing, but today I will say it is one of cooperation over competition. I believe that the best way to improve myself is through empowering others and trying to lead by example. I would not be where I am today if it weren’t for the many inspiring people in my life who made me feel like I could do anything I set my mind to. Many professors and staff at BU have taken chances on me to improve my standing and gave me opportunities for valuable experience. Seeing strong, successful women at Brandon University has helped me believe that I could achieve that for myself. This is why I so firmly believe in the power of representation.

Where do you see yourself in the future?

I hope one day to be in a position where I can build others up and assist them in their life journeys, as others have done for me. In particular individuals who face oppression, or who are marginalized by society. As of right now, I have my eye on the Marriage and Family Counselling Masters program offered through the University of Winnipeg. The idea of working in sexual/reproductive health, or being a relationship or school counsellor is very appealing to me. Though, I also have a strong love for academia and have entertained the idea of becoming a professor, considering how I have thrived in the university setting.

Nominator’s Comments:

Jenna McDonald is an incredible feminist and anti-racist activist on campus. I have come to know her through her efforts to protect the rights of all individuals to access their legal right to abortion services, ensure students have a strong voice in the creation, evaluation, and implementation of BU’s sexual assault policy, and through her brave and determined responses to the rise of white supremacy on campus. Jenna is an organizing member of the Revolutionary Student Movement (RSM), which is an anti-capitalist Canada-wide organization that centers radical approaches to student activism and aims to transform campuses into spaces where social justice is prioritized over profit. She has been included on the Honour List and inducted into the President’s Honour Society. In addition to responding to white supremacist propaganda with RSM, Jenna volunteers as a campus peer wellness educator where she assists the Wellness Coordinator (Trevor McIntyre) with various events on campus that promote student health and wellbeing. Through this program she has had the opportunity to participate in various workshops and trainings on self-care, 2SLGBTIQ+ inclusivity, Indigenous teachings, bystander intervention trainings, and mental health first aid. She also sits on the Sexual Assault Advisory Committee. Jenna is a force to be reckoned with, and I am proud to share this campus with her.