Encouraging Student Success Through Community Involvement

Joanne McNamara’s career has taken her up some well-known hills. From Parliament Hill to UC Hill at Western University, she has worked in high-profile offices with influential people, particularly during her time as Deputy Chief of Staff to Prime Minister Stephen Harper. Along with her vast professional experience, Joanne’s contributions to the community have set her apart as both a leader and a mentor to others. Recently, after moving back to London to take on a new role as Executive Director, Strategic Projects in the President’s Office at Western University, Joanne strengthened her involvement with King’s by becoming one of the newest directors on the Foundation Board and a supporter of the Student Life Campaign.

Staying connected with King’s has always been important to Joanne, who graduated in 1996 with a BA in Political Science. “It was at King’s that I learned critical thinking and the importance of public service, nurtured within an inclusive, supportive community,” recalls Joanne. “University is one of the first times in the life of a student where they are able to completely control their destiny, through courses taken, professors engaged and majors chosen.”

Professors like Hugh Mellon and Tozun Bahcheli opened Joanne’s eyes to international politics and Canada’s role in the world, an interest which led her to 15 years of working and volunteering in various government positions. Throughout her career with the Government of Canada, Joanne regularly engaged with students through political science and history clubs, as well as events organized through the King’s Office of Alumni Affairs. “I have had amazing opportunities in my career,” notes Joanne. “Sharing my experiences and inspiring students that they can achieve success in public service is the best way that I can give back.”

Joanne recalls a recent discussion with a student who wants to become Prime Minster of Canada. “He told me that with my experience it would be great if I would come and work for him some day. Aiming high, thinking nothing is impossible if you work hard enough is the message he took from our conversation – nothing could possibly be more rewarding.”

For Joanne, supporting King’s as both a volunteer and a donor is an important part of her life. “I support King’s with the hope that it will provide opportunities for students. I believe that people support their alma mater to make sure that every student who wishes to experience a university education will have the chance.” In turn, Joanne hopes that students will learn the value of gaining work and life experiences through volunteering, particularly at the start of their career.

“I was responsible for Personnel and Administration in the Prime Minister’s Office for a few years, and in that time I learned to spend more time looking at the volunteer section of a candidate’s resume, before anything else. I came to learn that it was those who also gave back to their communities who would be the most dedicated and loyal employees.”

King’s has always provided students with opportunities to enhance their resumes through club involvement and extra-curricular options. Joanne’s commitment to supporting students will allow present and future generations to pursue their passions, both in and out of the classroom. King’s would like to welcome Joanne back to London and the Western community, and thank her for her ongoing support.