Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I was born in Fort Qu'Appelle, Saskatchewan, and moved to Regina when I was seven years old. My early years and family life were very complicated and tumultuous, so school was an amazing escape for me. I loved learning and the world of possibilities it opened.
Education wasn't a focus in my family, and I really wanted to go to university, but as the first person in my family to pursue that I had no role models, so I wasn't sure how to do it. I thought hard work and good grades might get me there, so I focused on that, and it paid off. I loved the sciences and graduated from the University of Regina with a BSc Honours and worked in cancer research for some time. That turned me on to research and I thought I might pursue medical research.
Fast forward a couple of years, and I ended up in Lethbridge by happenstance and circumstance and the only job I could find when I moved here was teaching, something I swore I would never do. But never say never. My plan was to stay for one or two years so I had permanent Alberta residency and then apply for medicine, but I fell in love with teaching. I became passionate about enabling academic success in the sciences for those more resistant by creating bridges between students' way of knowing and what is expected in this system.
That led me to do my Master of Education here, and my PhD in Educational Research at the University of Calgary. During this time, I was seconded to teach in, and then be the coordinator of, the First Nations Transition Program, which has been redesigned and renamed the Indigenous Student Success Cohort (ISSC). The ISSC is a first-year university program designed to enable academic success for Indigenous students by creating bridges between Indigenous Ways of Knowing and Learning inclusive of culture and the Western education expectations. I've been the coordinator and have taught in the program for over 10 years.
I do believe there is a place for everyone in university and I'm passionate about opening those doors and creating the necessary bridges.
How long have you been at ULethbridge and what do you do here?
I've been at ULethbridge for approximately 30 years. I began in the Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry as an academic assistant (as we were called back then) teaching chemistry and biochemistry labs for many years. In 2006, I was seconded to teach chemistry in the First Nations Transition Program (now the Indigenous Student Success Cohort). That led me down a unique and wonderful path to where I am today as an associate professor and the coordinator of the Indigenous Student Success Cohort (ISSC). My scholarship of teaching, learning and research are focused on bridging cultures through Two-Eyed Seeing for Both Ways Knowing (TES-BWK) to enable Indigenous academic success in this Euro-western space.
What’s the best part of your job?
For me, the best part of my job is the students. I love getting to know the students at the beginning, whether it be at the start of the academic year or the start of course I teach and watch their progress. I love the conversations, their perspectives, and learning from them. It keeps me learning. It is a gift to be a part of, and contribute to, their journey in a very small way.
As chief marshal, you’ll be leading graduates up the hill for the first time and for the first in-person ceremonies since the pandemic began. What does it mean to you to be to celebrate our grads in this way, rather than virtually?
I am the kind of person who needs the REAL — there is an authenticity and connection that you simply can't create sitting behind a screen. It's like a hug — you simply can't create the connectedness and emotion you get from a real hug virtually. The same is true of convocation, you can't create that energy, that connection, that excitement and nervousness, that sense of pride in "I did it" that happens in walking across the stage in the virtual space no matter what you do.
So, I'm excited the students finally get to experience that, both those who missed convocation due to Covid and those who are convocating this year, who did much of their degree virtually during Covid. The success of each student during this difficult time makes this in-person celebration even sweeter and more poignant - a true fait accompli.
What do you enjoy doing outside of work?
Outside of work, I love being outdoors. I'm a long-distance runner, so I run daily with my running companion Saje — a red merle Australian Shepherd. We live in such a beautiful part of the country, so each run is a different and unique experience. Running is where I find my balance. I love to travel because it makes me appreciate the unique diversity of lives lived and the vast beauty of this planet. I have the great gift of three amazing daughters, and we spend much time together. They truly ground me.