Profile: Lisa Haagsma

Alumnae Association President


Written by: Pat Morden

When Lisa Haagsma was a student at Brescia, she was inspired by a wall of photographs that included Mother Theresa and Helen Keller. “I remember looking at those pictures while waiting for my next class to start, and thinking how amazing to be someone whose accomplishments are posted to encourage other women.”

As Haagsma viewed the gallery, she was inspired to share her life experiences and knowledge with Brescia students as President of the Alumnae Association. “I want to give back to Brescia,” she says. “I’m a behind-the-scenes kind of leader, but I like to do what I can in a quiet way.”

Haagsma, who grew up in northwest London, was the first in her family to attend university. Her grandfather worked as a custodian at Brescia and often shared stories of working with the Sisters. She had to defer her admission for a year when she didn’t get a student loan and needed to save more money. When she finally arrived, she fit in quickly. “I liked it right away,” she says. “It’s a very welcoming place. I was finding my way through university and didn’t have anyone at home who knew about it, so I really appreciated the small classes, the sense of community, and the support.”

In fact, she liked it so much that she came back 11 years later, after the birth of her daughter, and completed a second degree at Brescia. Next she took a “huge leap,” moving to Australia to complete teacher training and then accepting a one-year teaching job in Trinidad. “I explained to my daughter that it was going to be a different life for us,” she says. “But she said, ‘okay, you’ve always wanted to be a teacher, I’ll support you.’” Haagsma’s other biggest supporter is her husband, Mark. He faithfully attends all of the Brescia events, even if he is the lone male attending!

Back in London she worked at the Wheable Adult Education Centre for four years. Building on her experience in food services at Brescia and at a local hotel, she eventually moved into the hospitality area. After completing her certification, she was hired to start up a new program and commercial kitchen at Montcalm Secondary School in London.

Haagsma says the Alumnae Association has been working hard to target more senior alumnae and has succeeded in creating a more diverse organization. Under her leadership, she hopes the Association will continue to connect with alumnae and students in meaningful ways. “We’re around so that students can ask us questions, find a mentor, network and to provide opportunities which keep alumnae connected to each other and to Brescia. It’s awesome to be part of the Brescia tradition — encouraging women to be bold and have a voice.”