Minds We Meet—Madison C. Feehan

Interviewing Students Like You!

The Voice Magazine recently had a chance to chat with Madison C. Feehan (she/her), a third-year Bachelor of Commerce with a Major in Business Technology Management (BTM) student from Edmonton, Alberta.  In the future, Madison has plans to transfer to the University of Victoria to complete a Bachelor of Commerce in Entrepreneurship and International Business and then pursue a Law degree, followed by a PhD in Law or Business.  She “look[s] forward to completing an executive education program with Oxford’s Saïd Business School after the completion of [her] undergraduate degree.”

Prior to her time at AU, she graduated from the Harvard Business School Program with a Comprehensive Certificate of Specialization in Entrepreneurship and Innovation.

Madison shared a bit about her unique background with The Voice Magazine.  “I have an interesting mix between business and STEM.  I have worked for NASA for the past four years as an External Peer Reviewer and Executive Panelist for the Planetary Science, Heliophysics, and Astrophysics division.  My role is to evaluate proposals from leading researchers around the globe and determine which ideas should receive funding from NASA.  I greatly value my work experience, as it has given me the opportunity to engage with some of the most innovative stakeholders in space science.  Furthermore, it has given me immense perspective into the minds of NASA scientists, which has given me the opportunity to implement my knowledge into entrepreneurship.”

She continued “In addition to my compelling work with NASA, I am also a freelance data analyst for the European Space Agency (ESA), and co-founder of two aerospace start-up companies: Space Copy and Moon Trades.  In addition, I am a member of Women in Aerospace Canada (WIA), the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA), and the United Nations Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (UN COPUOS), and The Moon Society.  My diverse background and entrepreneurial mindset comprise my motivation for excelling in business related studies, and my passion for entrepreneurship is what led me to follow the path of getting a business degree.”

This busy student had some great study tips for fellow AU learners.  “My best study tips are to break down big parts of information into smaller bits and study in bursts.  I find it extremely helpful to reference flash cards, chapter summaries, and online videos to help reinforce the most critical concepts of your subject matter, since all of AU’s content is entirely self-taught.  Most importantly, it is important to take a break every once and a while.  Having passion projects and aspirations to work towards in between studies can revitalize your motivation and perseverance to finish the next big assignment.  If possible, look for ways to apply your knowledge in real-world applications such as work, volunteering, internships, and competitions related to your field of study.”

She also had some advice to give to new students and/or prospective students.  “When I first joined Athabasca University, I did not know what to expect.  During my journey, I have had many ups and downs, with a common thread: the most challenging courses were always a reflection of my assigned Academic Expert.  I recommend all new and prospective students to thoroughly do your research before joining our alumni!  Programs that have little external support can be extremely challenging if you do not have any prerequisites in the subject matter.  In parallel, it is helpful to speak with a variety of other students to gain a well-rounded understanding of what your academic journey might look like and continue to foster this open communication through each of your courses.  Many helpful students and advisors can be found in student servers like Discord, Facebook, and Reddit; where you truly discover that you are not alone.  In fact, I believe that it is crucial for students to openly communicate about their experience with particular courses and tutors and reflect your experiences back to AU in student feedback surveys and by relaying information to course coordinators.  You can quickly discover that some of the challenges you face with individual Academic Experts are in fact not a reflection of your academic performance, but instead, a reflection of the temperament of others.  Always continue to strive towards personal growth and look for alternative assistance if you feel unsupported in your journey.”

When she is not studying, Madison remains quite occupied with several interesting pursuits.  “When I’m not studying, I devote my entire time to my work with NASA, as well as freelance projects and building my startup companies.  The first, Space Copy, is developing 3D printers that create infrastructure on the surface of the Moon for upcoming astronaut missions.  The second startup, Moon Trades, is developing a STEM education platform as well as robotics and AI-enabled mining hardware for applications on Earth and the Moon.  The rigorous demand from creating two startup companies in the aerospace industry are both challenging and extremely motivating, and I enjoy being able to apply my learning into real-world situations.”

Madison credits her mother for having the greatest influence on her desire to learn, sharing that she was homeschooled under her guidance.  “She greatly influenced my inner ability to strive for knowledge and empowered and supported me through each opportunity that I applied myself towards.  We even completed our Harvard education program together!” she stated.

Like many students, Madison appreciates the flexibility of the online learning environment.  “I appreciate the flexibility that online learning offers students.  Between my everyday challenge of building startups and balancing it with my NASA work and volunteer roles, I found it immensely helpful to have access to education in a way that conforms with my schedule.  However, I believe that there is still a lot that could be done to improve the way that online material is delivered by Athabasca University to our student body.  In my previous post-secondary online experiences, I found that other institutes incorporated a more hands-on approach through interactive quizzes, videos, and experiments.  I believe that Athabasca University would greatly benefit from following the lead of other online-based learning platforms.”

Her most memorable course so far has been ENTP 212: Entrepreneurship, as a result of her “background in being a part of two co-founding teams for two aerospace startups, as well as having independent projects in the years leading up to the start of my post-secondary education.”  She continued, “It was a nice change of pace to focus on a course that directly had real-world applications to what I am doing in my everyday life, and I greatly admired the layout and structure of the program.”

As for communication with her course tutors?  “I have had varied experiences with the course tutors and academic experts of Athabasca University.  In many regards, I have had a mix of positive and negative reviews.  While some tutors have been very explanatory and courteous in providing meaningful feedback, I have also dealt with a series of biased and impudent tutors who did not take the time to properly justify their grading, or hardly provided feedback of relevant merit.  In fact, on my latest exam, I was mis-graded dramatically, and I had to file an appeal to have the grade corrected on my transcripts.  I would state that a viable solution would be to improve communication times and enforce regular performance reviews for all AU faculty in order to ensure that students and tutors are behaving amicably, because at the end of the day, our mission is to improve the quality of educational standards for ourselves and fellow students.”

The Voice Magazine also asked Madison what her first project would be if she were the new president of AU, and she had two main suggestions.  “The reformation of the course learning platform.  I believe wholeheartedly that the online education experience can be designed with greater clarity and could be redesigned in order to be more effective, explanatory, and engaging for students.  Incorporating interactive features to test individual progress and including more video lessons into the overall course material would significantly improve students’ comprehension,” she mentioned, before continuing, “I also believe that an effective approach to learning involves enhancing communication efficiency and implementing routine performance evaluations for all AU faculty members to foster a harmonious environment among students and educators.  Ultimately, the overarching goal is to elevate educational standards, benefitting both ourselves and our peers.”

When asked which famous person, past or present, she would like to have lunch with, and why, Madison chose Katherine Johnson.  “She was a remarkable mathematician and physicist who played a crucial role in NASA’s early space missions, including the Apollo program.  I would be honoured to have lunch with her to learn about her experiences, challenges, and the groundbreaking work she did at a time when opportunities for women were limited.  I would want her to feel relaxed and at ease, so we could engage in a meaningful conversation about her life, achievements, and the impact she had on space exploration and the advancement of women in STEM fields,” she explained.

As for her most valuable lesson learned in life?  “One of the powerful and valuable lessons that I have learned in life is that knowledge is power!  By continuously optimizing your skill set and learning new things, you can become more adept to various situations that require a mix of both hard technical and soft interpersonal skills.  In fact, some of the skills you learn unexpectedly may become one of the central and driving forces behind your career-long passions and goals.”  Best of luck Madison!

At times, in an online learning environment, it can feel like you are all alone, but across the nation and around the globe, students just like you are also pursuing their Athabasca University (AU) studies!  Each week, The Voice Magazine will be bringing you some of these stories.  If you would like to be featured next, do not hesitate to get in touch!