UVic Alumni Bursary Connects Student and Mentor

Words by Ryann Anderson, photo by Julie Rémy

Dominique and Wendy

When Dominique Rochefort received her first University of Victoria bursary, she searched the name of the donor online. She wasn’t expecting to find much, and at first, she didn’t. She learned that Wendy Gedney is a retired teacher living on Vancouver Island, but couldn’t find much else. But when Wendy reached out to her, Dominique ended up finding both a mentor and a friend.

Giving Back

Wendy completed her Bachelor of Education at UVic in 1983. She was herself a single mother for some of the years she worked on her degree, jumping between working in classrooms and completing her education. Wendy taught full time for a number of years at several schools in Greater Victoria.

Wendy also taught and supervised student teachers, a position which she called a privilege and pleasure. She enjoyed seeing the students on their practica and prided herself on her ability to guide prospective teachers in the right direction. 

Wendy had been an active member of the UVic Alumni Board – she was even awarded the 2004 Volunteer of the Year Award – and had always planned on donating a bursary. It was the idea of seeing the impact of her contribution in action that tempted her to start donating right away, rather than waiting. The Wendy M. Gedney Bursary in Elementary Education is given in her name to students of high academic standing, with preference given to single parents, as Wendy herself was a single mother while attending UVic.

Finding a Mentor

Wendy requested that her contact information be given to the recipient of the award. After exchanging a few emails, the pair decided to meet face-to-face. A lunch at Baan Thai brought them together as friends.

Dominique, a single parent, appreciated the opportunity to bond with another educator. The best advice she’s received from Wendy about her then upcoming practicum was to “work hard, enjoy it,” she says. “Relax, and take all the feedback I can get.”

Making a Difference

“Did I tell you I want to go into Special Ed.?” Dominique interjects and tells Wendy enthusiastically. The pair high-fives and launches into quick energetic chatter praising Dominique’s decision.

Dominique has known she wanted to go into Special Education since she was a kid herself. “The way I feel I can really give back the most is by helping them,” she says of students with Special Needs, inspired by the children in her classroom for her most recent practicum.   

Connecting with Kids 

Dominique identifies with children who need more support during their education. Having been diagnosed with Developmental Coordination Disorder herself, she often shares her experiences with her students. “It’s important to let our students in and be vulnerable in that way,” she says.

“Being a parent gives me the push to strive for excellence and to show my kids that they can do anything,” says Dominique.

The Next Step

Dominque is about to enter the fourth year of her undergraduate program at UVic. She plans to return to complete her Master’s in Special Education. She is happy to have Wendy as a mentor to reach out to during her career. “I do feel really connected to her,” she says. 

“She’s going to be a pride to the profession,” says Wendy of Dominique. Wendy hopes to be able to meet with each recipient of her bursary.