"I am one of the IBL EMBA's biggest fans and often find myself recruiting friends and family in Saskatchewan!  This program is designed for Indigenous leaders to ensure sustainable careers and educational opportunities through business education and networking."

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Larissa Burnouf

January 23, 2024

IBL EMBA in the Beedie School of Business

Tell us a little about yourself, including what inspires you to learn and continue in your chosen field

I'm currently a practicing First Nations lawyer in Saskatchewan and after a 20 year career in broadcasting, I knew that I wanted to have a career that would help people, instead of reporting on the problems to a national audience every night. I went into law to help my community and First Nations people. Quickly after graduating law, I attended Harvard's Building Sustainable Communities Certificate program and was elected Vice-President of my home First Nation's economic development arm, Canoe Lake Resource Development Inc. This led to more board opportunities and I realized quickly, the lack of Indigenous business professionals and the lack of Indigenous lawyers in business. I wanted to bridge that gap and assist my community in establishing inter-generational wealth so that the next 7 generations of youth in my community can have the same educational and business opportunities that I have had.

I am a single mother of 2 beautiful little brats that keep me on my toes and that deserve better opportunities than I had in this life and I am determined to make sure they both have that. I am also a Spartan Race Canada ambassador and will be heading to the Spartan Trifecta World Championships in November in Sparta, Greece to represent Canoe Lake Cree First Nation on an international stage once again. I am also a purple belt in Muay Thai Kickboxing. I am hoping to one day obtain the honour of a black belt.

Why did you choose to come to SFU?

I chose to attend SFU because of the IBL EMBA degree specifically. I had friends and family attend the program and find great success in the support this program offers all students.

How would you describe your research or your program to a family member?

I am one of the IBL EMBA's biggest fans and often find myself recruiting friends and family in Saskatchewan! This program is designed for Indigenous leaders to ensure sustainable careers and educational opportunities through business education and networking. The IBL EMBA program offers supports that no other program offers and it is designed with Indigenous culture and tradition at its heart. It is truly made for and by indigenous business leaders.

What three (3) keywords would you use to describe your research?

Sustainability, Community (& Culture), Strategy

How have your courses, RA-ships, TA-ships, or non-academic school experiences contributed to your academic and/or professional development?

At the beginning of my program, I was having family issues with my children back at home in Saskatchewan. I was upset because I didn't know if I was doing the right thing. I have several degrees. I have a successful law career. Did I need an MBA or was I being greedy and only thinking of myself? I sat down with the Elder at the school, had a good cry and confided in her. We prayed as our culture dictates. I found solitude and comfort in her guidance and her wisdom. Not every university student gets the opportunity to receive the support and ultimately, the love of a trusted Elder throughout their education. I know this is where I need to be and this is what I need for not only my family, but the families within my community back home in Saskatchewan. This is what is needed for the next 7 generations of Canoe Lake Cree First Nation and Burnouf's. I want to be the change my children and family see in this world and with this program and the support of the Elders, I know I will get there.

Have you been the recipient of any major or donor-funded awards? If so, please tell us which ones and a little about how the awards have impacted your studies and/or research

I have received the CN award and it truly was the difference in getting me to attend this program. My funding was in jeopardy and I didn't think I would be able to attend. When I received this award, I was able to pay my tuition and I was able to travel from Saskatchewan to BC for the program. I was able to make sure my children were taken care of while I was away and I was able to breathe a sigh of relief as it helped alleviate a financial burden that had been weighing me down for months. The relief from the stress of paying for my education saved me in so many ways. Being a single mother is hard, but being a single mother who's a full-time student is even harder. This scholarship saved me a few new wrinkles and grey hairs :) lol jk

What have been the most valuable lessons you've learned along your graduate student journey (or in becoming a graduate student)?

You are meant to be exactly where you are.

This was the plan of your ancestors.

You are your ancestors wildest dreams!!

Keep going!!!

How do you approach networking and building connections in and outside of your academic community?

I was told early in my law school journey that although education is important, who you know is sometimes more important than what you know. Connection is one of the most important things in life. Business connection, family connection, educational connection, etc. I go into every meeting believing that the people I am meeting could create the change my community needs in the future, business connections and/or legally speaking. As a lawyer and as a business executive, connection and networking matter just as much as your education and experience. When someone knows your reputation and your name is a solid positive one for a business, they'd be very willing to pass on your name to the next person needing your services or expertise.

What are some tips for balancing your academic and personal life?

Family comes first. No matter what. Education will always be there, but your family will not. You can make up grades or do another paper, but you will never get another chance to see your child win the gold medal in their sport at this age. You have to prioritize and sometimes that means your doing homework in between your child's shifts on the ice. It's not uncommon to see me writing a paper at the rink with my son or at the stables with my daughter. You also have to take time for yourself and your own self-care. My self-care involves muay thai kickboxing, spartan training and weightlifting because it takes my mind 100% away from school, work and kids

If you could dedicate your research to anyone (past, present and/or future), who would that be and why?

I want to dedicate my work to my father and my children. They're the reason I do what I do. And I would like to dedicate it to the Canoe Lake Cree First Nation Chief and Council and entire community. The only reason I have had the opportunities to be successful in my education is because of the support and belief my nation has had in me.

Is there anything else you'd like to share?

You are exactly where you are meant to be in your journey. Don't quit and keep going no matter how hard it gets. You are your ancestors wildest dreams.

"If you are not sick, dead, or dying... you better be working or going to school!" - Lawrence Burnouf (my dad)


Contact Larissa Burnouf:larissa_burnouf@sfu.ca

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