Profile: Madison Olson

“SHINE”ing the Spotlight on Women in Leadership

Madison Olson

Madison Olson isn’t your typical first-year student. After completing high school in 2011, Madison pursued her passions for travel and leadership and left her hometown of Ilderton, Ontario to attend Hillsong International Leadership College in Sydney, Australia. It was there that Madison became involved with SHINEGirl, a program designed primarily to build girls’ confidence and help them to understand their intrinsic value. Realizing the potential and benefits for SHINE in Canada, Madison finished her three-year program in Sydney and returned home to launch SHINE’s Canadian branch. Today, the first-year Brescia student balances a busy life, where she is not only double-majoring in BMOS, specializing in Nonprofit Management and Women’s Studies, but is also the CEO and President of the SHINE Optimist Club of Canada (SHINECanada).

Why did you choose Brescia for university?

As a passionate believer in the empowerment of girls and women world-wide, I knew that Canada’s only women’s university was the place for me. Brescia is recognized for building and nurturing female leaders, something I not only find vitally important but also feeds into to my career aspirations. I knew when entering university that I wanted to make SHINE my full-time job, and that Brescia would equip me with the skills and knowledge to prepare me for that future.

Additionally, as I had already completed some post-secondary education, I understand the value of a small classroom environment and the importance of getting to know your teachers. I was confident that Brescia would supply both!

What do you value about Brescia’s all-women’s learning environment?

Women learn differently than men, so a school like Brescia can focus on women’s learning abilities and provide the environment to nurture this. All-women environments are often negatively labeled as “catty”, which should not be the case. Schools like Brescia can provide an environment which promotes women to encourage and build each other, and remove a lot of that competitive stigma. It is my belief that women should be each other’s greatest asset, not their greatest hindrance.

What advice would you give to Brescia students who want to lead boldly?

Before you can lead anyone you must lead yourself. As a leader, you must feel confident in who you are and the decisions you make. If you don’t feel confident, it is important to check-in and ask what is holding you back from being the person you could be. To lead boldly, you must always question and challenge yourself and be brave enough to act on the answers.

How do you define leadership? Or, what characteristics make a great leader?

Humility – definitely! A leader is someone who not only cultivates their own skills, but also sees the potential in others and helps to encourage and build that potential. A leader, above all, believes in others.

Have you had any mentors or role models? What did you learn from her/them?

One of the most influential leaders in my life was my direct supervisor for an organization I volunteered for in Australia, Kelsey Martin. From day one, she made it clear that she wanted the best for me, and so she was always challenging me and helping me to build my skills and confidence. Because of her I am a stronger leader today.

Personally, I have always found it important to surround myself with many mentors and role models. Being able to get advice from women who are professionally further down the road than I am is not only valuable but it also offers great perspective.

What is SHINE and SHINECanada?

The SHINE program is a resiliency course for girls that focuses around teaching three important concepts: worth, strength and purpose. SHINE believes that every girl – whether they are a woman or a girl – needs to know these concepts for themselves in order to be equipped to live up to their fullest potential.  SHINE was initially launched in Australia, and is now found in 30 different countries world-wide – including Canada!

SHINECanada is primarily London-based. We partner with community centers, schools and organizations to bring the SHINE curriculum to girls ages 9 through 14. In addition to our local work, we have had a number of highlights this year including the launch of our first remote chapter in Barrie, Ontario. On a national level, we recently partnered with an organization to take the SHINE program to Moldova in efforts to teach local girls the curriculum. And, as of next year, we will be partnering with Community leaders in reserves in Northern Ontario to run the SHINE program year-round.