University of Saskatchewan alumna Amanda Guthrie now serves as the education and operations manager at OUTSaskatoon. (Photo: Submitted)

Amanda Guthrie: Finding your way

Amanda Guthrie (BA'16) has a longer history with the University of Saskatchewan (USask) than most people.

Guthrie was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer called rhabdo-myosarcoma when she was just eight years old and had to make numerous trips from her hometown of North Battleford, Sask., to Royal University Hospital (RUH) in Saskatoon for chemotherapy treatments.

After two years of battling cancer, she made the decision to remove her right eye in order to have a better life experience. She now wears a prosthesis and was officially discharged from the cancer clinic at RUH a couple of years ago.

Since Guthrie spent a lot of time at RUH, USask seemed like an obvious choice for her when she was making the decision to go to university. Guthrie took classes to earn a Bachelor of Arts in psychology and planned to become a clinical psychologist, but her time on campus helped her discover not only what she wanted to do, but who she was.

“I had some of my best times and some of my worst times at university,” she said. “Being an undergraduate student for some students can be really challenging and for myself I struggled throughout high school in figuring out my queer identity and I did a lot of soul searching and identity searching when I came to the University of Saskatchewan. So, my first several years at university were quite hard, personally and mentally.” 

Guthrie relied on a lot of the supports that USask had to offer, such as student health. At the time she was not comfortable with going to the Pride Centre, but she felt comfort knowing that it was there and a resource if she needed.

Where Guthrie did go was to the Avenue Community Centre for Gender and Sexual Diversity, now OUTSaskatoon. She volunteered there with youth programming  and found a love for educating people, and also discovered that social change was a passion. In 2014, she began working at OUTSaskatoon as the youth and education co-ordinator.

“Completing my degree in 2016 was a really big accomplishment because it felt like there were certainly days where my struggles just felt so overwhelming,” said Guthrie. “It felt really, really great to walk across the stage at convocation knowing that I completed my degree, that I was out and proud, and that I had found community and belonging.”

“Educating people still remains one of my big passions in life,” she said. “How can we build bridges that connect communities that on a stereotypical level seem so different, when in reality we have more in common than we think we do.”

In 2016, Guthrie was named a CBC Future 40 Under 40 winner.

“I don’t do my work in an individualistic way, I believe in collaboration and community; that we’re stronger as a whole. It was incredibly humbling to be recognized for all of the hard work that I have been doing, but I certainly know that my work is part of a larger collective effort,” said Guthrie.

Today, Guthrie is the education and operations manager at OUTSaskatoon, where she oversees all educational initiatives and operations of the organization.

Along with her work, Guthrie has also been involved in the political world over the last several years. She has helped elect a member of parliament at the federal level, worked on a provincial campaign, and managed a campaign in which a close friend was elected at the municipal level. And while she’s unsure if she’ll run for politics in the future, she enjoys being involved in the area.

“I see electoral politics as a large tool of how we can create better communities,” she said. “It’s certainly not the only tool, but it’s one that definitely piques my interest,” said Guthrie with a laugh.

Guthrie is also a board member at Quint Development, which is a housing and social entrepreneurship organization in Saskatoon. And in March, she was nominated as a YWCA Woman of Distinction in the youth category.

“It was a really big honour to be nominated alongside so many amazing women in our community. There are so many women working to build a better and more inclusive Saskatoon, it was humbling to be nominated alongside them,” said Guthrie.

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