Photo: (Jodie met her hero, Canadian icon and three-time Paralympic gold medalist Rick Hansen, when he was presented with an honorary degree at the University of Lethbridge 2018 Spring Convocation.)
From goat tying to beauty queen to Director of the University Secretariat at the University of Lethbridge, Jodie Gallais has never been one to turn down a challenge.
Jodie was featured in the very first issue of Lethbridge Living magazine. In 1994, she was a fresh-faced, 17-year-old, Grade 12 student at Kate Andrews High School, who had just won the Miss Teen Lethbridge competition. It was a different experience for Jodie, who was an active member of the Alberta High School Rodeo Association competing in the goat tying event in rodeos across Alberta.
Jodie says she was encouraged to enter the competition by her family. They had known a few people who had entered before and they thought it would be a fun experience for Jodie to try.
“It seems like a blur. Each person that was in (the pageant) experienced things in a different way and I look back on my experience and there were great things that I learned from it,” says Jodie. “Overall I was fortunate. I met a lot of people. I gained a lot of confidence. I don’t regret being in it and I don’t regret where it’s led me.”
Jodie says being Miss Teen taught her valuable organizational skills and how to deal with increased responsibility. “Having such a busy community schedule with so many obligations really made me work hard and appreciate the support of my family, and that is still something I am fortunate to have today,” she says. It also helped connect her more within the community and brought her an awareness of giving back.
During her reign as Miss Teen Lethbridge 1994, Jodie selected the Canadian Cancer Society as her charity to advocate with. She volunteered at events throughout her year and afterward continued to help with support groups for the local Lethbridge chapter.
“I was honored to be their official honorary campaign chairperson for that year,” says Jodie. The experience made an impression on Jodie, as she continued that advocacy while pursuing her degree in psychology at the University of Lethbridge.
After she completed her degree in 1998, Jodie worked at the Lethbridge Immigrant Settlement Association for two years assisting with refugee settlement in Lethbridge.
“That was an important step in my life,” she says. In 2000, she began her career at the University of Lethbridge as a Recruitment Officer. For three years she travelled across the country, recruiting students to come to the U of L. Then she took on a few other roles and eventually became the first educational strategist. “I helped start that program from scratch and it continues to benefit students across campus,” says Jodie.
Throughout her career, Jodie harnessed her “parents’ entrepreneurial spirit,” as part owner of a few different companies in town. She worked full time and had two children - Robbie Black (11) and Tara Black (10), all while never losing sight of her goal of completing her Master’s at the U of L. She accomplished this in 2009, writing her thesis on the Retention of Commuter Students at the U of L.
“I’ve always felt … looking back, I’ve always been working really hard,” says Jodie. “I’ve been willing to explore opportunities when presented. I’ve learned from the successes AND from my challenges in life.”
Then in 2010, her current role opened, and she couldn’t resist taking the position. She became Director of the University Secretariat in January 2011. “It’s a great opportunity,” says Jodie. “I get to liaise with all the internal and external community members.”
In this role, Jodie reports to the University President, provides governance advice to the institution and oversees a team who supports the Board Chair, the President and Chancellor, Board of Governors, General Faculties Council, Senate and their standing committees. She also manages the policy process on campus.
“I’ve been fortunate to work at a great place and I love my job,” says Jodie.
“Looking back, I never thought this is the job I was going to grow up to have and this is where I’m going to be; however, I’ve always been open to all the different opportunities in life.”
Jodie continues to give back and support the community - a value that’s remained consistent since her time as Miss Teen Lethbridge. She’s been a member of 100 Women Who Care since its inception, she served as a board member on the Lethbridge Association for Community Living (now called Inclusion Lethbridge), and in 2015, she was the volunteer coordinator for the opening and closing ceremonies of the 55+ Winter Games.
Once things slow down a little, she’s looking to areas she can share more of her time. For now, she’s excited to assist her daughter, who is co-founder of the local chapter of 100 Kids Who Care.
“I really find that important as a citizen, and to ensure that people that are able to in any capacity are still contributing to this city.”