Arctic Yearbook 2014 - Page 169

169   Arctic Yearbook 2014 and scholarship and bursary programs targeting Aboriginal and northern students with financial needs. While there has been much research done in the area of Aboriginal post-secondary students’ success rates in Canada, these studies often come from a deficit perspective by focusing on the disparities between Aboriginal populations and the rest of Canada. (Currie et al., 2011; Mendelson, 2006; Smith, Gold, McAlister, & Sullivan-Bentz, 2011). These studies cite statistics which suggest much higher dropout rates than the non-Aboriginal population due to lack of recruitment, geographic and financial barriers and issues such as enculturation, discrimination and alcohol use as reasons for lower education rates. Other themes considered in the literature are potential employment outcomes for post-secondary students who are successful compared to those who do not complete degrees (Hull, 2009; Krebs, Hurlburt, & Schwartz, 1988). Our research takes a qualitative as well as an appreciative approach in order to listen to the life experiences and educational pathways of northern female students. We investigate how northern female students define and measure their own successes. In particular, what factors have contributed to their successes and what impact has their success had on family and community? While everyone likes to feel “successful”, many northern students do not have a reference point for what that feels like. When it happens, it can be life changing for unexpected reasons. There is a need to capture the unexpected or unintentional outcomes of post-secondary education which are often more personal as well as collective in nature, and not just the harder outcomes such as completion rates or employment. Students describe their success in terms of personal changes but also changes they have witnessed in their children, families and communities. By interpreting emerging themes within the interview data, this research will also suggest indicators of success that may be more appropriate for northern students. We believe that this data will also contribute to discussions as well as policy on investing in place-based northern education. Situating the Research This research project is a collaboration between UCN and UM-NSWP in Thompson, Manitoba. The female students who participated in this project are either current upper students or graduates of these programs. The city of Thompson is the largest semi-urban center in northern Manitoba and is situated 750 kilometers north of Winnipeg. Thompson acts as an economic and service ‘hub’ for northern Manitoban communities, including commercial, educational, recreational and medical services. Employment opportunities such as the Vale nickel mine or Manitoba Hydro also contribute to inward migration from outlying communities. The City of Thompson services an area that covers 396,000 square kilometers, which includes 32 communities and totals approximately 72,000 people. The average age of a Thompson resident is 30.6, well below the provincial median age of 38. Regionally, the area surrounding Thompson has a median age of only 24, and this trend is growing within the region’s Aboriginal communities. In communities such as Garden Hill and Split Lake, the average age is under 20. Thompson’s current population is estimated as 50% Aboriginal. The city is   “We’re All in This Together”