For students of the University of Lethbridge’s class of 2027, school is now in session.
Welcomed by the university’s seventh–and newest–president and vice-chancellor, Dr. Digvir S. Jayas, along with vice-provost of students Kathleen Massey, students’ union president Maleeka Thomas, and keynote speaker Kacie Bosch, a former ULeth athlete who has joined the women’s basketball coaching staff, the newest members of the student body gathered in the 1st Choice Savings Centre this week before exploring all the campus has to offer.
“Today is all about connection,” said the event’s organizer Natasha Toney, who introduced the speakers and the overarching messaging. With dozens of volunteers offering guided tours, swag bags, and friendly greetings, there was no shortage of hospitality on campus. That hospitality continued throughout the campus, especially in the Iikaisskini (Low Horn) Gathering Centre, where all ULeth students are welcome, and the traditions of the Blackfoot people are embraced. The space includes a designated smudging and prayer area, tables for studying, and a safe environment for students of all levels who seek support or guidance. “The new buffalo for Indigenous cultures is education,” says Beth Grier, “it leads everywhere for us.” Grier, who recruits Indigenous students in multiple provinces and a territory, explains that in the past, the Blackfoot people relied on the buffalo to meet most of their needs and used every part of the animal. Today, that resource is education, and the Iikaisskini Indigenous Services team has much to offer students both academically and personally.
Jodie Flamand Tailfeathers, Indigenous student advisor, works with students for their entire time at the university. From the first day on campus to graduation, and even graduate degrees, her role is to support students and help to build a wider community to enhance the student experience. Flamand Tailfeathers explains that, for her, the University of Lethbridge campus often feels like a city of its own and the community is one that is open to all cultures.
During her speech in the gymnasium, Kathleen Massey assured the new students in the crowd that it was normal to be nervous and advised them to “Imagine yourself achieving your goals and completing your program.”
Massey also detailed a new program the university had unveiled called Start Smart at University of Lethbridge, where, after taking a brief quiz, students are presented with a personalized report meant to help them succeed in their transition to life at the university.
With every speaker, the new students were reminded of the importance of perseverance and caring for one another, as well as themselves. “Friends don’t let friends cite their papers at 3 a.m.,” emphasized keynote speaker Kacie Bosch, addressing the importance of building a community.
The transition to university can be daunting for new students, but for those who are starting at the University of Lethbridge, there seems to be no lack of supports to help them through the academic year.
Theodora Macleod, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Lethbridge Herald