“Do what you love,” enthused Madeleine Brodbeck, this year’s recipient of the Governor’s General Silver Medal. The prestigious award is given to an undergraduate student who achieves the highest academic standing upon graduation from a Bachelor’s degree program. Last week, Madeleine received her Bachelor of Science degree in Psychology from Algoma University.
Madeleine is modest about her accomplishment, owing her success to a natural love of learning. “I just loved school. School was the thing that I was good at. Society is very focused on school and education- I was just lucky that I really like those things. A lot of people don’t and that’s fine!” She delivered the statement with great earnest.
“Not everybody has to go to university. People think they have to and they don’t. People are stopping themselves from doing what they want to do. That kind of bothers me.” She pauses a moment before emphasizing her first point. “People should just do what they love to do.”
As a high school graduate of Korah Collegiate’s arduous international baccalaureate program Madeleine admits that she entered her first year of university with an exceptional work ethic. “I think the IB program made my first year of university a breeze. And I do try really hard,” she acknowledged.
Young people have real lives and Madeleine’s four years was not without challenges. She shared that a personal event that could have devastated her instead drove her deeper into her studies. “I was in the third year of my program. It was the worst day of my life but I poured myself into my work. It was a good distraction. I focused. I didn’t have to think about what happened when I was working. It was almost liberating.”
But Madeleine isn’t all work and no play. Balancing priorities may not have always come with ease but ranking them did. “Friends and family always came before school. If there was something troubling them that was more important to me than work.” She chuckled and then added, “And I love video games. I have to be honest, I was a bit of a procrastinator too. By the fourth year I got much better at keeping up with homework.”
Madeleine is quick to caution those who may disparage post-secondary education from a small university. “Algoma University is a good school. There’s a lot of opportunities there that you can’t get at a big school. I wouldn’t have had a TA’ship in my second year at a larger school. And the prof’s are really invested in how you do. And all my profs- Lauri Bloomfield, Paul Depuis and my Dad were all really, really good profs.”
In a few weeks Madeleine will head south to Western University in pursuit of a master’s degree in Cognitive and Behavioural Neuroscience.
“Western has a brand new facility opened up for avian research. It’s just a really cool facility,” she remarked.
Madeleine has spent endless hours in the Algoma University lab recording the behavior of black-capped chickadees. On her decision to accept – from myriad options, an opportunity to work on her master’s at Western she added, “It wasn’t necessarily because I want to work with birds. But I wanted to work with the scientists at Western –they’re really cool and great scientists. The decision wasn’t about what I wanted to study. It was really about who I wanted to work with and where I wanted to work.”
On leaving ‘home’ her feelings are mixed. “I really love the outdoors. I love where I come from. And I love my family. London is still close enough that I can come home. That was important to me too.”
“Where we love is home- home that our feet may leave, but not our hearts” ~ Oliver Wendell Homes, Sr.
Congratulations Maddie-cakes! You’ve made us all so proud.