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Breaking down barriers

A Q&A with 2020 Alumna of the Year Lisa Browne

By Heidi Wicks

As CEO of Stella’s Circle, Lisa Browne (BA’91, MBA’93) offers housing, counselling and employment services to the members of our community who need it most.

Driven by the life and memory of her twin brother, who ended his life after suffering from depression for many years, Ms. Browne’s daily mission is to treat everyone with compassion.

In this Q&A, Memorial’s 2020 Alumna of the Year shares her multifaceted experiences with Memorial, wants students to know it’s not marks but experiences that matter the most when pursuing post-secondary education and is reminding us that when everyone in our society is healthy and supported, we all benefit.

HW: Is there a particular memory or experience that stands out from your time at Memorial?

LB: There are many memories and experiences (case competitions good; cost accounting bad), but when I think of Memorial, it’s really about the overall impact that it has had on my life.

I’ve been an undergraduate and graduate student, a member of the Board of Regents, a marketing lecturer and a staff member.

“There’s not another institution that has had such an impact on me.”

It’s where I realized I actually could do well in calculus, developed a love of Newfoundland and Labrador authors, learned to speak in public without fainting and met some of my closest friends.

There’s not another institution that has had such an impact on me.

HW: What advice would you give to a current Memorial student?

LB: When I lived in Clarenville, I gave violin lessons and when my students were graduating high school and getting ready to go to Memorial, I would always tell them – to the chagrin of their parents – not to worry about marks.

It’s everything else that matters: friends, networking, extracurricular activities, club and societies, volunteerism. Those are the things that you remember.

And those are the things that will shape your life and can impact the lives of others.

HW: How does it feel to receive this award?

LB: Surreal. Surely I’m not old enough?

But mostly, I feel very honoured and humbled that someone even thought it was worth their time to nominate me and then to be recognized for essentially living my life is quite something!

HW: What’s your biggest wish for Stella’s Circle and other non-profits in our community?

LB: The barriers that some people face in their lives are really overwhelming. Some of those barriers are individualized, but many are systemic.

And that’s a real disservice for society as a whole. We are a healthier and more prosperous community when we are all doing well. Community groups like Stella’s Circle are working on the front line and have many insights into the challenges people face.

“We are a healthier and more prosperous community when we are all doing well.”

Because we are categorized as non-profit (a terribly outdated and pejorative term), we are sometimes dismissed. So, my wish is for the work, insight and knowledge of community groups like Stella’s Circle to be valued for their profound impact and that as a society, we recognize the importance of everyone reaching their full potential.

HW: What’s next for you?

LB: I’m very fortunate to be at Stella’s Circle and every day I’m incredibly grateful to work with my colleagues and to get to know our participants.

I’ve very much enjoyed my career path – which is really all about being flexible and responding to opportunities as they arise.

One of my favourite things is unexpected partnerships, so I am always on the lookout for that.

The 2020 Alumni Tribute Awards take place on Oct. 26 at Signal Hill Campus and will be live-streamed.

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