Michelle Beveridge (HS'88)
When Passion and Purpose Collide
There’s no doubt about it. Michelle Beveridge is a dynamic change-maker who knows how to get things done.
Her activism and social responsibility have taken her all over the world, where she’s helped shape policy and communicate a call-to-action on issues ranging from the inequities facing poor rice farmers in Guyana to the challenges facing Saskatchewan’s indigenous youth.
The Luther College alumna (HS ’88) grew up with a strong sense of purpose.
“My parents were very involved in social justice issues and were also politically active,” she recalls. “They took me out of school for a day during an election when I was 13. I rode my bike to and from the polls to get the voting numbers, which helped determine where voting was weak and doors needed to be knocked.”
Michelle says Luther provided a sense of belonging and a nurturing environment that she craved.
“My very first memory was my excitement over finding my locker and meeting two people on either side of me that became really good friends,” she smiles. “Some people search for that sense of belonging their entire lives – the kind that grounds you and gives you the confidence to try new things and see how far you can go. I felt I belonged at Luther.”
She went to Queen’s University after she graduated, and then returned home to complete a degree in journalism at the University of Regina, which is where she met her husband, Jason Warick, renowned investigative journalist for CBC Saskatchewan. They have two children, Angelina, 13, and Taras, 10.
After working with CBC right after graduating, she moved to Saskatoon with Jason and began freelancing, but soon found herself working for Oxfam Canada, eventually as Oxfam’s policy and program specialist on international trade and agriculture during the World trade organization negotiations. “I was in Guyana talking to small rice farmers who were dealing with high rates of suicide in their communities because they were losing their market to huge American rice corporations. When you see policy played out in such a profound way, you can’t help but feel a sense of responsibility to the injustices in the system. I wanted to help make the system fairer.”
Michelle’s face lights up as she talks about her passion for making policies real. “It’s important to show the impact that policies are having on people’s day-to-day lives. Telling their stories is a way to make it real,” she enthuses. “Powerful stories can motivate people to act. They can help change behaviours and that can change policies. This is what attracted me to journalism as well as campaigning.”
Michelle has been trying to make an impact here in Saskatchewan as well. Working as their campaign managers, she helped get a Saskatoon MP, a Saskatchewan MLA, and Saskatoon Mayor Charlie Clark successfully elected – all within a year.
Currently her role is Chief of staff to Mayor Clark. She is his chief advisor and is responsible for ensuring his priorities continue to move ahead, which includes increased investment in the downtown and an economic growth strategy for the city.
A project she has helped lead is Saskatoon’s proposal to the federal government’s Smart Cities Challenge. Saskatoon made it to the finalist phase with ConnectYXE, an innovative technology and data hub that works in partnership with community organizations and institutions to address the cycle of Indigenous youth incarceration. Michelle spoke to Prime Minister Trudeau and federal Ministers about the importance of this proposal. A highlight was when the Indigenous youth involved in the project said they wanted to tell their stories to emphasize the importance that this technology would have had on their own lives when they were in crisis.
“It was their idea to organize this Sharing Circle and they spoke from the heart. Personal stories like that demonstrate how policies and programs can make a real difference and change lives.”
Michelle says her relentlessness and downright stubbornness probably plays a role in her success at getting things done. “I have two mottos. The first is GEPO – which stands for Good Enough, Push On. You have to keep pushing forward and can’t get stuck in perfectionism. The other is Make It Work. Keeping an open mind and being open to diversity of thought is so important. You have to stick with it and find different ways to get things done when you run into obstacles.”Michelle Veeridge