SFU Convocation Speaker’s Grit Leads to Success in both Academics and Athletics

November 22, 2021

Mairin Shields-Brown’s undergraduate experience is a testament to ‘you can do anything you put your mind to.’

Growing up in a small town on Vancouver Island, Mairin fought for the opportunity to compete as a NCAA athlete on SFU’s track team. In high school, she would commute hours to Nanaimo, multiple times a week to practice with her teammates.

“I worked hard to get on SFU’s Track team, and was a walk-on member for the first couple years, without a scholarship,” says Mairin. “Moving to Vancouver was a game changer for my personal and academic goals coming out high school.”

Mairin began her degree as a kinesiology student before she changed majors in her third year after taking a course in SFU’s School of Resource and Environmental Management (REM).

“Being from a small town on the island I’ve always been super into all things nature, sustainability and environment. [REM] reflected my learning style really well and I loved that it touched on all aspects of the field.” says Mairin.

Switching majors wasn’t the first change Mairin made during her time at SFU. When Mairin entered SFU as a 400m runner and long jumper, she struggled to find her pace on the team. After her first year, she started coming out to middle distance practices, and with the guidance of her coaches, Mairin found success as a distance runner and qualified for Nationals in the 800-meter.

As she neared her fourth year of studies and classes moved online due to COVID-19, Mairin pushed to graduate in four years rather than the five she had originally planned. This meant giving up her final year on the track team and taking on a full course load over the next year.

“I really felt myself wanting to move on,” says Mairin. “I’m really proud of myself for graduating in four years as a student athlete.”

Looking back at the past four years, Mairin has a lot to marvel at. She has achieved both academic and athletic success without missing out on the fun that university offers.

“To anyone starting their degree I would say try and look at it from the big picture perspective. That first year is such an invaluable time and you're never going to get that again. Have so much fun, live your best life, but know what your limits are,” says Mairin.

At the Faculty’s ceremony, Mairin will address her fellow graduating class and SFU’s newest cohort of alumni as the convocation speaker.