Katie Brambley


Olympic swimmer, community volunteer, sports administrator

By Alison Korn

Three years after returning from her Commonwealth Games Canada project in the Seychelles, Katie Brambley has an MBA degree from McGill University, a new career in sport policy at Sport Canada – and along the way, has become a poster child for excellence.

In 2006, Canadian Business magazine highlighted Brambley as one of its “Top Students and Grads who are Making the Grade,” and McGill also featured her in its MBA program promotional material and online.

Originally from Victoria, B.C., Brambley, 29, is now settled in Ottawa, where, since February 2008, she has been working in Federal-Provincial/Territorial Relations in Sport Canada’s policy department.

“I’m still figuring out what exactly my job description is,” she giggled modestly. “I’m kind of in the steep learning curve stage.”

A three-time national champion in swimming, Brambley qualified for the 2000 Sydney Olympics in the women’s 4X200 freestyle relay as an alternate. She swam in the heats of the event, helping her team to a fifth-place finish overall. She also competed at two Pan American Games, winning three medals.

Brambley’s international development through sport placement in the developing African country of Seychelles (population 90,000) from August 2004 to July 2005 was as an Olympic Education and Development Officer. The internship was a chance for Brambley to spread the Olympic ideals and her own love of sport by establishing an “Olympic Club” after school program in 14 schools across the country.

The clubs, run by volunteer teachers, encourage youth leadership, physical activity and health education. Brambley also volunteered at a local orphanage on weekends, playing sports all day with children aged two to 16.

“When I first started volunteering at the orphanage, I would get a little nervous and sad before I got there and often while I was there,” Brambley recalled. “What I really learned was that the kids at the orphanage had such amazing spirit. They have had some pretty tough lives, and continue to deal with lots of emotional, physical and mental issues, yet they put smiles on their faces and embrace the world. They really taught me to do the same. To not feel sorry for them, but to learn from them and take some of that incredible spirit with me.”

During her internship Brambley also received training in the Kicking AIDS Out! program, which uses sports and games to teach HIV/AIDS education. Since then she’s been working as a Kicking AIDS Out! facilitator, delivering the program to African and Caribbean nations, presenting at the 2006 International AIDS Conference in Toronto and providing training and mentoring for the network and its partners globally.

Brambley figures she was always destined to work in sport, but acknowledges her experience in the Seychelles has also inspired her to volunteer more in her “real” life, and not just overseas. So nowadays she teaches swimming several times a week, including for a YMCA Masters group and an after school program with the Boys and Girls Club.

“That part of the internship experience was so powerful because I was volunteering on my Saturdays,” Brambley explained. “I had to ask myself the question, why aren’t I contributing this way back in Canada? I was forced to examine that part of my life. Now, I’m way more involved in volunteering in Canada.”

In 2002, Brambley earned a bachelor of Political Science from the University of British Columbia, and at both UBC and McGill she won major leadership and academic awards. She’s previously worked for Bell Canada as a business analyst, for the Canadian International Development Agency as a policy and planning analyst, and in marketing and sponsorship for Canadian Interuniversity Sport.

In the Seychelles, Brambley was successful in developing the Olympic Clubs program from the ground up, which involved recruiting volunteers to run the clubs, writing a handbook for the ongoing operation of the clubs, setting up a steering committee, and advertising and promoting the program through the media. The clubs are now up and running in the majority of schools in the country.

“I really credit Commonwealth Games Canada with providing us with good briefing and training,” Brambley said. “In my orientation, one of the facilitators said to us before we left that what’s really important is that these programs are sustainable. That was top of mind for me very single day I worked in the Seychelles.

“And I think my internship helps keep things in context for me working here in Sport Canada in the policy dept,” Brambley added. “It reminds me of the core central reasons why I do this: It’s for the love of sport and the benefits of sports, and making sure that as many people as possible can share in the experiences I got to have. I really felt a part of something bigger than my project.”


Canadian Business MBA guide to the best in graduate business school programs: Feature on Katie

McGill University “Student Life” feature on Katie Brambley