Karen MacDonald proving it’s never too late to further one’s education

By Sam Laskaris
Cando Contributor

Karen MacDonaldIt’s never to late to fulfill one’s wishes.

Just ask Karen MacDonald.

Though she is 57, MacDonald was in recent months finishing up her requirements to obtain her Master’s degree in business administration from the University of Calgary.

MacDonald, a member of Thunderchild First Nation in Saskatchewan, believes it’s better late

than never to return to school in order to further one’s education.

And it’s not as if she didn’t want to do it before now.

“I missed the opportunity to do it earlier in my career,” MacDonald said. “A lot of people encouraged me but I had this self-doubt.”

MacDonald decided there was no point in waiting any longer and made the decision to return to school. And not just to help herself.

“What I want to do is assist other Indigenous students achieve their business goals,” she said.

Besides being a student herself the past couple of years again, MacDonald is also a member of the university’s staff. She’s the manager of the Writing Symbols Lodge, the school’s Indigenous student centre.

The centre provides both academic and cultural support to Indigenous students. And it works with other groups throughout the University of Calgary campus to provide information, advice, cultural activities, Indigenous student access programs and training.

Before becoming the manager of the centre in early 2020, MacDonald had spent five months working as its Indigenous student access program co-ordinator. And before that she had worked eight months as the centre’s Indigenous relations training program assistant.

And for the second year in a row MacDonald was also recently announced as one of the eight winners of the Indigenous Scholarship Program.

This four-year program is an initiative between the CIBC and the National Indigenous Economic Education Fund, Cando’s charitable organization.

From 2019 through 2022, the Indigenous Scholarship Program provided a total of $44,000 to worthy recipients across the country.

Winners were awarded between $2,000 to $10,000 each.

MacDonald was one of the four scholarship winners that was awarded $5,000 in each of the past two years.

Receiving some financial assistance towards her educational pursuits was obviously welcomed as it is no secret post-secondary expenses quickly add up.

“The tuition is just sky high,” MacDonald said. “Every dollar helps.”

MacDonald had earned her first university degree back in the late 1980s. She obtained her Bachelor of Commerce degree from the University of Saskatchewan.

Along with her husband she raised two children.

Juggling a family life and her work was already hectic enough. And then throwing in all the school responsibilities while working towards another degree took the juggling act to a whole other level.

“It’s very tough,” MacDonald said of performing all of her duties.

And undoubtedly, it’s always a bonus when other recognize efforts and are willing to assist others financially in their academic pursuits.

“Any scholarship helps,” MacDonald added. “A scholarship always helps you towards your educational goals.”