Asper MFin student embraces leadership and lifelong learning
Sheena Gee finds intergenerational connection in professional graduate program
“Where do I get a winter coat?”
Met with a simple question, Sheena Gee felt like she had come full circle.
Gee, an Asper Master of Finance student and Vice President of the Asper Professional Graduate Student Association (APGSA), was asked this question at the first Stu Clark Graduate School meet-and-greet event and has been fielding similar ones since.
As an MFin student who has completed a diploma and bachelor’s degree at the University of Manitoba, she is used to answering queries about living in Winnipeg from new and international students in the program. Gee grew up in Canada, but her parents came to the country as refugees, on her mother’s side, and immigrants, on her father’s. Like her classmates now, they had to rely on their new community to make that transition.
“It’s come full circle for me,” she says, “being the domestic student here and realizing that my mom had these friends that she is still friends with now: the people who said, ‘let me help you’ when she came to Canada.”
Gee shares how the knowledge she offers as a seasoned Winnipegger—from tips for surviving winter, to ways of getting involved in the graduate program—has helped her connect with her cohort and her own family.
She stepped into the role of student representative and finds herself embodying the sense of community that supported her family a generation later: “I tell my grandparents about my classmates, how they came to school, how they ask about this or that, and how I provide answers. My grandma said that she remembers when she had those questions.”
She jokes with classmates that her experience might be similar to what their children could live through. She says, “that’s the running joke: one day, your kids are going to be me.”
Joking aside, Gee is a strong role model who demonstrates the value in following her passion, supporting her community and embracing lifelong learning.
She is also no stranger to fielding questions at home. Gee and her partner balance parenting three children with their commitment to lifelong learning, which includes answering the many questions her oldest has about her MFin classes.
Gee recently had an opportunity to bring her nine-year-old son to an evening class—Investment Policy with Dr. Alexander Paseka. As they got ready, her son insisting on a dress sweater and his Chelsea boots to put his best foot forward, Gee felt the impact of the experience.
“I didn’t even realize until I saw him getting ready for class that he’s doing exactly what he sees his mom doing,” she says. “I felt good to think that I’m setting a good example for him by doing what I’m interested in, what I’m passionate about.”
Before pursuing this passion with the MFin degree, Gee’s professional life began in dental hygiene. “As a child of immigrants and refugees,” she says, “it’s common to hear ‘get a good job, something safe,’ because they’ve experienced so much instability.”
Gee understood the draw of safety but also wanted flexibility and freedom. She started a business in 2015, Movement360 Inc., a mobile massage and physiotherapy service, and realized that her entrepreneurial spirit might emerge from rather than stand against her family history:
“Looking back, it makes sense,” she says. “On my mom’s side and my dad’s side, they were businesspeople. I see now that there was always a lot of entrepreneurial spirit in my family, even if they didn’t have the opportunity to pursue it when they first came to Canada.”
After succeeding as an entrepreneur, Gee wanted to challenge herself further and pursue an MFin at Asper. “I don’t want to close doors,” she says. “I want to continue to grow and learn.”
She quickly got involved in the program, joining the APGSA and becoming an ambassador for the MFin program. Without a business-related bachelor’s degree, Gee didn’t initially imagine herself in a leadership role.
“I’ve been in many leadership positions, but because this is such a new world for me, I didn’t see myself as a leader,” she says. Like her entrepreneurial roots, Gee came to recognize her leadership skills in this new context, in part because her cohort encouraged her to take on the role. “It was the support from the community at Asper that gave me the confidence to do this,” she says.
Gee will speak at the Asper MFin Open House this month, and she offers a preview of her advice for prospective students:
“Get involved. Dive in,” she says. “It’s the difference between getting through a program and really getting into a program.”
Gee’s story reveals that getting involved can also be a feeling that is not easily measured on a C.V.
She embodies a willingness to live and feel connections in the program beyond a professional network—from stepping into the role of the friend who welcomed her mother as a newcomer and playfully representing a hopeful future for her colleagues’ children, to sitting next to her own son in the classroom of his very first university lecture—Gee’s time in the MFin program seems structured by shared moments and feelings that echo across generations.
Gee’s leadership manifests in her efforts to get students involved and to reflect this involvement herself. It is also present in the unofficial roles she takes on, like giving advice for finding a way through what is unfamiliar, challenging or new: “You don’t see it. You don’t know it, but you’ll feel it,” she says.