Women in Excellence: Madalaine McConville

The mission of the Stout Student Association is to, “ensure that all students, opinions, rights, and interests are represented and voiced.” This is extremely evident in their outgoing Director of Legislative Affairs, Madalaine McConville.  During the 2019 SSA election cycle, no candidate was praised as much as she was, endorsements came from almost everywhere. Deservedly so, as she was an incredibly qualified candidate. Her experience and passion for governing and voting set her apart. That was clearly seen in the way she performed on the debate stage.

Something that was also clearly seen on the debate stage was that Maddie was the only woman running for an executive board position. After years of having multiple women in their executive ranks, Maddie noticed that it had dwindled and knew she needed to do something about it. She had planned on obtaining the necessary 50 signatures to be on the ballot running for Civic Engagement Senator, and the idea of getting an additional 50 more to qualify to run for a Director position was daunting for her. But she knew it was necessary.

In the days leading up to the election, Maddie felt much stress and anxiety, even though she was essentially the perfect candidate. She has a strong background studying Applied Social Science with a concentration in History and Politics. After her freshman year, she did an internship in Selma, Alabama, that included protesting in Washington, D.C and helping ensure that Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act was protected. She’s volunteered with Chippewa Valley Votes and has worked with door-knocking campaigns. Maddie also spends a lot of time evaluating policy and doing research on polarization and has even written letters to the editor to discuss students’ rights. Throughout her life, Maddie has done so much to help college students, and yet she was nervous that she wouldn’t be elected to represent students as Director of Legislative Affairs for the Stout Student Association.

Looking back a year later, she doesn’t understand why she was so anxious about the election, though she believes staying humble in those situations is an asset that more people should have. For the last year, she has worked tirelessly for the needs of students, whether it’s fighting for our voting rights or for women across campus. It comes with a lot of pressure, but she has handled it extremely well.

With Maddie serving as the Legislative Affairs Director, so much has been accomplished. At the beginning of the year, she chaired the Bylaws Committee and created her own committee to serve legislative needs for the student body. The Congressional Committee was created in record time and serves an important purpose by keeping students updated on legislative matters and paving the way for more opportunities. One such opportunity was a lobbying trip to our capital city, Madison, Wisconsin, to speak with legislators on behalf of students.

A lot of work has also been done to prepare for the future. Something that was important to Maddie was laying out the groundwork on campus for the 2020 elections. She wanted to be sure that the next Director of Legislative Affairs has everything they need to be successful. This has involved working on voter registration drives with the Menomonie chapters of the League of Women Voters and For Our Future Wisconsin.

Maddie McConville has worked very hard to be successful in her position. With her strong governmental affairs background, she had a lot of tools to be successful in working within the Stout Student Association. Unfortunately, it was not as easy an experience as she expected. She may have had the support of her colleagues before and after the election, but that support ultimately dwindled as the months in the organization wore on. Maddie had to deal with the difficulties people have loving a strong woman until she uses her strength. This included obstacles in performing her job roles such as “mansplaining” and micromanaging.

However, she didn’t allow this to hold her back from achieving success. Even though the odds were sometimes against her, Maddie never believed in silencing herself. “I’m in this role, and I’m a strong woman. I’m going to make sure that my voice is heard and that you’re not going to step on my toes.”

Maddie’s relationship with leadership began in middle school, when she did a report on the famed activist and athlete, Billie Jean King. Learning about the work of the the tennis legend inspired Maddie and made her feel ready to take on the patriarchy. Billie Jean King is still one of Maddie’s idols because “if she can do it, I can do it.” While she hasn’t had to take on Bobby Riggs himself, there are a lot of things Maddie has had to deal with in a world that “hasn’t gotten past sexism”.

She’s always been a strong-willed person that is ready to make history. In high school this meant engaging with her community as an athlete and an advocate for students. She practiced soft leadership, and people naturally followed her. When she first came to Stout, she didn’t get involved with clubs right away. She wanted to figure out how to navigate everything. Maddie always found herself talking to her friends about politics and knew she had to find somehow to get involved. Eventually, she realized that she needed to embrace leadership because she had the necessary skills to create some good in that environment.

As a leader at Stout, Maddie has continued to lead by example. She works hard to be effective and help people in the best way she sees fit. She also has great skills in delegation, doesn’t have issues with assigning leadership, and allows other people to take over. Unfortunately, Maddie has had to accept that she can’t accomplish everything due to double standards. Though she begins projects and initiatives with good intentions, people have occasionally seen her as a threat. “Sometimes I’ll do things and people will complain about it. If I were a man, I would be praised.” She has had to find her way in a male-dominated environment, and step back to let other people do things so that there is less criticism.

When she does receive criticism, Maddie handles it in stride. She always wants to know if she’s doing something wrong so she can fix it and apologize. While Maddie is exemplary in handling her critics, she is very nervous when it comes to confrontation. This is because she can’t stand people being angry with her, and just wants things to be resolved quickly. She has grown to accept confrontation as a necessary evil when it comes to serving in her position. Maddie McConville is not a woman that can be silenced. “If they’re silencing me, they’re silencing other women on campus.”

When discussing her male colleagues’ scrutiny regarding her and other women, Maddie notes that they probably don’t even realize what they’re doing. Possibly because the men working with her have rarely worked with women at this level before. Due to the patriarchy Maddie has dedicated her life to fighting, it is all too natural for men to protect their place at the top.

Her organization has never had many women in their ranks, especially women in executive board positions. Intimidation is a big part of that because “it’s scary to walk into a room and be the only person like you”. Being a high-ranking woman executive is a constant battle. Maddie is frequently justifying her actions to the men around her. She is questioned and micromanaged. Her projects are regularly scrutinized, and she is sometimes put on trial for simply responding to emails.

It’s important for women to have a role in the leadership process, especially on their campus. Even though Maddie has had a difficult time serving as part of SSA’s leadership, she strongly believes that other women should take up the mantle after she graduates. She has a lot of wisdom for women stepping up. “Don’t be afraid, don’t back down. I used to be somebody who would give in, but it’s important to fight for what you believe in. Your feelings are valid. You’re right, and you’re doing what you think is best.”

When Maddie was running for the position of Director of Legislative Affairs, she was by far the most qualified candidate, but she was worried about prejudice. Running as a woman against any male candidate is an uphill battle, and those seemingly small victories are a big win in the fight against the patriarchy.

Throughout this year, Maddie has thoroughly dedicated herself to the work she was elected to do. She is most proud of how much she has been able to accomplish given how little structure existed for that position when she walked in on her first day. The position of Director of Legislative Affairs is infamous within the Stout Student Association. It was an executive board position for a long time but fell into hiatus when projects were restructured within the Vice President position. It was resurrected a few years ago, but nobody knew what to do with it. The first person to step into the role after its hiatus was Shane Miller, an Applied Social Science student who did his best with what he was given. After his graduation, he was replaced by former Director of Organizational Affairs Director, Pat Lytle, who, in his own words, “didn’t do a lot” in the previous position. As Director of Legislative Affairs, Lytle served one semester before stepping down. He was replaced by Matt Gunderson, someone who “absolutely detests” politics. When it was Maddie’s turn, her eagerness and dedication for the position and its responsibilities was like a breath of fresh air. That breath of fresh air does not leave with Maddie either, as she spent the year carefully cataloging her work. It is her goal that someone else stepping into the position will have the resources they need to be successful. Regarding that success, Maddie has simply noted, “Women do a lot with nothing.”

The Stout Student Association speaks a lot about how they represent the student body. How they, “ensure that all students, opinions, rights, and interests are represented and voiced.” Without the tireless dedication of Maddie McConville, many people would be left out of that equation. Beyond serving as Stout’s fearless Director of Legislative Affairs, she has also been a Stout Ambassador and a recipient of the Samuel E Wood Medallion award, the highest non-academic award a student at Stout is able to receive. Our campus has been lucky to have her representing us.

Maddie encourages women to be more involved and to put themselves out there. “This work that you’re doing isn’t just for you, it’s for the people that need you to be your voice. If you’re not going to do it, who is?"