That's the empowering and inspiring way that MK Marsden (BScGen-Sci 1983, former Gee-Gees Women’s hockey player) views the potency of each Gee-Gees women's hockey student-athlete, and she has acted upon that belief over the past five years as a key donor to the program.
Marsden is an entrepreneur and CEO who graduated from uOttawa in 1983 with a degree in biology and computer science. She has founded and led technology companies in six different countries and is currently the Chief Revenue Officer at Revscale, working in the artificial intelligence sector. She has seen firsthand the global acceleration of change in business and in women's sport, and knows that investments now will have wide-ranging impacts.
"Great athletes and great leaders come from everywhere. Genius and leadership comes from every one of us," says Marsden, with an acute awareness of the fact that each student-athlete is pursuing both sport and academic achievements.
"It's about giving her [the student-athlete] access and tools and support and resources so that whatever she's dreaming, whatever problem she wants to take on or whatever contribution she wants to make or whatever purpose she wants to have, that she's empowered, encouraged to do that," Marsden continues.
A poignant moment came in January 2023 when then Gee-Gees goaltender Aurélie Dubuc won a gold medal with Team Canada at the FISU World University Games. Dubuc is from Trois-Rivières, Que., where Marsden also lived for part of her childhood. She credits that time and experience with forming many of her core values today.
"Don't let your geography in any way limit you," says Marsden, who recognizes the way in which international perspectives also create opportunities. "And then yeah, go home. Go home, because now you're the example for somebody else. Be that inspiration."
Crucially, when Marsden consulted with the Gee-Gees coaching staff to identify areas of opportunity the team decided to invest in a goaltending coach who worked directly with Dubuc (and current Gee-Gees netminder ) in the season leading up to her gold medal moment. That coaching support continues today.
"What is the support you need? Depending on your position, what you need is different, right?" Marsden posits.
"So to be able to support her growth and expression and well-being, I'm quite excited that we have the caliber of training staff and coaching staff to let those girls be as great at that position as they can be."
A key theme Marsden returns to often when discussing realizing potential are the moments when small individual improvements can be catalysts for understanding new possibilities. "I've had thousands of those moments in my life," Marsden recounts, in particular her early days as a triathlon and water polo athlete. "When you realize you can skate a little bit faster than you could before, or ride your bike a little bit farther, it changes your views on what else you could achieve."
During her time as a student at uOttawa, Marsden was a member of the pioneering women's hockey club team and she has remained in sport throughout her impressive business career, now competing as a master's cyclist. She knows firsthand the powerful driver that sport can be.
"Sports is a great leadership training area. You learn how to play your position to the best of your ability, but you're not going to win unless you're able to get the rest of the team playing to the best of their ability. You're learning experientially, and you have teammates to support you and learn from as well."
"The other thing sport teaches you of course is to win and lose, but crucially to get back on the field when things don't go well. Sometimes we lose, and we learn from it. But we always get back on the ice and try to apply different strategies. A lot the things I learned in team sports I directly apply as a business leader, it directly correlates. As a strategy officer you're always looking at where the play is going next."
With her support, the Gee-Gees women's hockey program is taking steps to build an international destination for student-athletes to have an outstanding experience.
"I think uOttawa is uniquely positioned," says Marsden, "to build a team of players from all over Canada as well as internationally. And for that to happen, we need world-class coaching and a world-class support structure for the student-athletes."
"Having different women come together is important: if we look at the women's hockey team, they're across all different fields of study. You might be in education and you might be sitting next to a civil engineer or you might be sitting next to a policy leader, right? And you're going out together to compete and have that journey. You're going to have a very rich university experience and alumni network."
"This is important work at real exciting moment," Marsden emphasizes with joyful enthusiasm. "If you are a young person now contributing to building sport, whether it's though hours volunteering or through monthly donations, what amazing things are you creating in the world twenty years from now? Not just in your local community, but in the global community."
World class is everywhere, and the Gee-Gees women's hockey team is strategically pursuing it.