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Follow your passions: Adrienne McBride

Adrienne McBride sits with her two dogsPhoto supplied by Adrienne McBride.

When Adrienne McBride mentors students, giving suggestions about school or a career path, there’s one piece of advice she always returns to. Instead of pointing them in the direction of a particular job, she suggests they first find their interests. Once they’ve realized their passion, she says, a career will follow. If you’re committed to an issue, you’ll find a way to make a living.

For Adrienne, it’s advice that comes from close to home. After graduating from the University of Guelph-Humber and later working as a lawyer, she decided to follow her true passion: animal welfare. She hasn’t looked back since.

14 years ago, Adrienne was starting her first year at UofGH. The building was still getting its finishing touches, the plant wall was mostly seedlings and Adrienne and her classmates were UofGH’s first students ever. The school was still a work in progress, and Adrienne liked that about it.

“I’ve got a bit of a pioneering spirit,” she says. “Knowing that we would be the first class, I knew it meant we would decide how it goes. I think most of the first class felt that way: we were ready to take a risk, and if paid off.”

Interested in media and journalism, Adrienne debated whether to attend college or university, so when she found UofGH, she was happy to do some of both. As a Media Studies student, she quickly fell into the school’s rhythms, writing news and magazine stories and creating TV and radio reports. While other students wanted to branch out into reporting about the wider community, Adrienne was intensely interested in UofGH itself.

Those school issues held her attention, and when Adrienne wasn’t busy with schoolwork, she dove into campus life. Adrienne became a member of senate at the University of Guelph and Humber College, managed the newly created cheerleading team and, in her fourth year, she was elected president of the Guelph-Humber Student Association. To top it off, Adrienne was heavily involved in first-year orientation. There, she was able to introduce incoming students to campus and set the tone for their time here. 

“Being a STAMP leader meant we could help establish the culture here at UofGH,” she says. “It let us create the school we wanted it to be, with an environment that was open, inclusive and friendly.”

After graduating, Adrienne decided she wanted to continue her studies and went to law school at the University of Ottawa. While there, she took courses in media and business, but found herself drawn to one of her lifelong interests. She gravitated towards issues surrounding the status and care of animals. She interned at the Canadian Federation of Humane Societies to get to know the subject better.

Legal work is all about advocating for your client,” she says. “I’m still doing advocacy work, but now my clients have four paws."

“I’ve always had a passion for animals. When I was a kid, I was the one that found baby birds that needed help,” she says. Adrienne was starting to see different ways to bring her skills to her passion, but didn’t yet know there was a career in it. “In my mind, being a lawyer was just going to court; it never occurred to me that you could do different work with those skills.”

Time went by, and with her law degree in hand, Adrienne started working as a lawyer. She was at a firm doing conventional legal work, focusing on estates, wills and real estate, but her interest in animals remained. She was a member of the Guelph Humane Society’s Board of Directors, but didn’t see a way she could turn it into a job. One day, opportunity knocked. The position of executive director was posted and Adrienne decided to throw her hat into the ring.

Applying made for a tough decision. Adrienne was enjoying her legal career, but felt a stronger draw to the Humane Society. After some deliberation, she went for it, was hired, and has been there ever since. As it turned out, the new job wasn’t such a big leap after all.

“I’m often doing work that I first learned how to do at UofGH,” she says. “I draw on what I learned in journalism when writing press releases or being interviewed by the media, and in my time as president of the GHSA, I got to do budgeting, handle human resources issues and generally learn how an organization works.”

The skills she developed as a lawyer come in handy most days too.

Legal work is all about advocating for your client,” she says. “I’m still doing advocacy work, but now my clients have four paws.

What have you seen change in the 10 years since your graduation?

In my line of work, we’ve seen a huge change in how people treat their pets, especially cats. Owners are now more likely to look for lost cats, provide proper care and keep them safe and secure from the elements. Social media has played a large part in that. We now have internet cats, famous cats — they’ve really moved up in the world.

Celebrate UofGH’s alumni at this year’s Reunion on June 4th.

This story is part of a series about UofGH's first class.
Read about
 Andrew Kaszowski, 10 years later.
Read about Paula D’Souza, When risks pay off.