Way back in the early 1970s, Viviane Gray was the first university graduate from the Listuguj Mi’gmaq First Nation located in southeast Quebec. She graduated from Carleton.
Now, her nephew Darcy Gray will be one of the first two students to graduate from the Graduate Diploma in Indigenous Policy and Administration (IPA) program.
Gray and fellow student Marcie Portelance-Beaudry will walk across the stage on June 8 during spring Convocation ceremonies.
Most of Gray’s work experience is in the field of education, having started in the Listuguj community school in 1999. He is currently working as a guidance counsellor with Listuguj students attending high school.
Gray says what he liked best about the graduate diploma is the direct connection to Indigenous peoples and communities.
“Visiting Kitigan Zibi and Akwesasne provided opportunities to learn about proactive steps they are taking to build capacity and strengthen their communities. All the instructors and presenters were very knowledgeable and easily shared their teachings with us in an open and interactive way, which also allowed us to learn from them and one another.”
The program helped Gray develop skills and understanding about leadership, management and community development. “This has helped me to improve in my current role, in terms of working as a team, developing partnerships and collaboration with service providers in the community.”
As he recently won the election for chief in his home community, he says the program helped him prepare for what may lie ahead. The election was June 4, just before Convocation begins.
Gray also liked the way the program was delivered. “It was ideal and part of the selling point for me. I work full time and have family commitments that are barriers to going away for extended periods of time, but this setup was perfect. The two weeks onsite provided an opportunity to get focused on the program and meet key people involved, before completing the rest online.”
The IPA program kicks off with an intensive summer institute and then offers the rest of the courses online.
Marcie Portelance-Beaudry is Algonquin from the community of Kitigan Zibi Anishinabeg located near Maniwaki, Quebec.
She is currently a policy adviser in the federal public service. She has worked for the Department of Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada in various positions for the past eight years.
More recently, Portelance-Beaudry has taken on a new policy position within Northern Affairs on the Giant Mine team. Her work interests are in the area of Aboriginal northern development, specifically on issues surrounding land claims, self-government and the aspect of devolution, which aligns with her current position.
Says Portelance-Beaudry: “As I progressed throughout the year, I met a lot of amazing people and really enjoyed how we were encouraged to discuss hard issues and topics throughout the semesters both in class and through online discussions. It was these current and sometimes hard issues that really made an impact on how I will move forward personally and within my career.”
She too liked the delivery format of the program. “I was able to access my courses anywhere at any time. This was very convenient given that I have a young family and work full-time hours.”
In her final semester, Portelance-Beaudry worked with the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s final report by examining each call to action.
“I believe it is something that will continue to require work and revisiting. While everyone has their role to play in reconciliation, the IPA program has given me the tools and the language that is required to articulate and formulate points that can shed light on conversations that occur around me. What I learned through the whole program will forever stay with me.”
Both graduating students noted their supportive families. Gray and his wife Karen have been together nine years and have three children. Portelance-Beaudry and her husband Jeff have been together for more than 15 years and have two young children.
“It is important to acknowledge the loved ones around you as these are the people who will always be there to celebrate those special moments, such as graduation or editing a paper that you wrote in the middle of the night when you thought your ideas were grand, to providing calming advice when all your assignments seem to be due in the same week.”
Both students will be at Convocation. As Portelance-Beaudry says: “It will be an honour to graduate with my fellow classmates in this first cohort of the Indigenous Policy program at Carleton. It is also a way for me to share this experience knowing that we graduated from this unique course that is not offered anywhere else in the world other than at Carleton University.”
This article originally appeared on the Current Grad Students website.