Heather Wolfe (Mohawk)
M.A. Student, Canadian Studies
“It’s not about deadlines, it’s about milestones.”
Although not representative of the nuances of her entire journey, Heather Wolfe sums up the path she has taken on the road to education. At 32 years old and in the first year of her Master’s in Canadian Studies, Heather has experienced a rich and challenging journey to find herself where she is today. From putting university on hold for some years, to attending college while working a variety of jobs, Heather has in some ways mirrored the experiences of many Indigenous students. Her journey however, like all students, is laced with countless individual successes, accomplishments, sources of pride and personal gratification.
Heather first came to Carleton in 1999 and soon discovered that she was not at a point in her life where university was a natural fit. In light of this, she embarked upon a decade-long career working for Indigenous organizations, the banking industry and the federal government, to name a few. Always in the back of her mind was the promise of – and potential for – academia. While working towards a diploma at Algonquin College, Heather simultaneously took classes at Carleton as a Special Student. This is where her interest in Canadian studies took hold. “When I took that (Canadian Studies) class everything changed for me.” Soon after, Heather was accepted into a regular university degree program and thus began her journey to graduate studies, with a well-earned undergraduate degree along the way.
Heather credits the supportive atmosphere of the university and in particular various Indigenous support systems as being integral to her academic accomplishments. As the granddaughter of Auschwitz survivors on her dad’s side, and Mohawks of Kahnawake on her mom’s side Heather is incredibly proud to be the first person from generation after generation in both her families to earn a university degree. As a First Generation student, Heather did not have generational academic experience to draw upon – something that most Canadian students enjoy. However, Heather did not let this get her down and asked for help from peers, professors and other academic supports when she needed it. “There was never a time where I reached out and my call wasn’t answered”, she says.
Heather never thought she would see the day where she earned an undergraduate degree – yet she is well on her way to her M.A. Her successes tell us that sometimes the biggest obstacle to overcome is the one within ourselves. Through continually demonstrating academic success, Heather is an incredible asset to the Indigenous community at Carleton and indeed the broader university as a whole. Her work experience, perseverance and determination in the face of seemingly insurmountable barriers are true testaments to her powerful and resilient spirit. Heather reminds students at all locations on the continuum of education, “You are going to get there some way or another, and it may not be as fluid as you want it to be, but it will happen”.
For more information on the Special Student stream at Carleton, visit this page.