Dream weaver – Hogue connects history and heritage to new futures for Aboriginal learners
Dr. Michelle Hogue (MEd ’04) has been teaching at the University of Lethbridge for about 20 years. She is a professor, researcher, coordinator of the First Nations Transition Program at the U of L, a 2013 Alumni Honour Society inductee and winner of the 2012 CEA Pat Clifford Award for her work in improving attendance, engagement and success for Aboriginal learners. It’s an impressive résumé, one that might suggest a smoothly paved path to success. But from the start, Hogue’s academic journey was anything but easy.
“I have a long, convoluted and somewhat difficult family history,” says Hogue. “I was the first person in my family to go to university. In fact, many of my family members didn’t even graduate high school, so just getting to university was a big accomplishment for me.”
Hogue attended the University of Regina as an undergrad. Later, she was hired by the U of L’s Department of Chemistry, and was the only female on staff at the time. Her Métis heritage made the gap between Hogue’s ambitions and academic goals that much wider.
“Back when I was going to school, being a female in the world of science was strange enough,” recalls Hogue. “But there was further bias on top of that — the stereotype that Aboriginal students couldn’t do science, couldn’t do math. Those biases still exist to some degree today, but they’re not true. Academic success has much more to do with how we teach in that many students, Aboriginal in particular, do not fit the traditional Eurocentric-based western model of teaching, and most particularly in science and mathematics.”
Hogue has dedicated much of her career to creating new possibilities for Aboriginal students, bridging their ways of knowing and learning with western methods of education. Her desire to facilitate student success extends beyond her profession though — by way of on-going donations to the U of L Supporting Our Students (SOS) initiative.
“I believe in paying it forward,” she says. “I was lucky. When you’re impoverished it’s incredibly challenging to succeed in any way, least of all academically. I didn’t have any financial support when I went to school, but I’m in a position now to make the journey a little easier for someone else. Of course I want to do that.”
SOS has become more visible on campus in recent years, a trend that Hogue is happy to see.
“It puts a smile on your face and it makes you think,” says Hogue of the campaign. “How can you read the stories and not ask yourself why you don’t contribute? We’re here for the students and because of the students. Helping to support them financially is really an extension of our work.”
The amount a person donates isn’t nearly as important as participating, Hogue says. As little as $20 a month can make a big difference to someone struggling financially.
“What’s $20 a month?” asks Hogue. “To most people that’s a few cups of coffee, but to a student that money might be the difference between graduating and not graduating. It’s that’s simple, and it’s that impactful. You can spend that money mindlessly, throw it at a bunch of things that don’t amount to anything, or you can invest in somebody’s future. If you had the ability to help someone’s dream come true, wouldn’t you do that?”