Shirley Anne Swelchalot Shxwha:yathel Hardman
Why did you decide to pursue a graduate degree?
Graduate education has long been viewed as unattainable for Indigenous people in Canada. I want to be successful so the nieces and nephews and grands- can imagine themselves being whatever they want to be. I want also to honour my ancestors, they sacrificed a lot so we could be who we are today: Xwelmexw (Sto:lo people).
Why did you decide to study at UBC?
UBC captured my heart with the Longhouse, with Sto:lo professors, with Musqueam Elders and with the everyday reminders that Indigenous students are welcome here. To be reflected and included in the everyday life of the institution strengthens my heart with every step I take.
What is it specifically, that your program offers, that attracted you?
Graduate school is always about the Mentors, Advisors and the Research opportunities. I heard my advisor speak while I was in another program at another school. When they finished speaking, I knew there was a place for me at UBC with that Advisor. Finding people to work with whose research and writing resonates with your thinking is crucial to being inspired.
What was the best surprise about UBC or life in Vancouver?
UBC is a big school - it is bigger than my home town. What is surprising is the down to earth friendliness on campus--right across campus. Everywhere you go on campus there are friendly faces...and no one will let you be lost for very long. The campus is full of friends you haven't met yet. It is an honour to be a part of this community.
What aspect of your graduate program do you enjoy the most or are looking forward to with the greatest curiosity?
My grad cohort is the best. We are the Six-Pack and we are learning together, teaching each other and we eat and laugh together whenever we can.
What do you see as your biggest challenge(s) in your future career?
My research is all about changing the institute where I work. The challenge will be in helping others to embrace the change. Some will think things are fine the way they are now. Other people harbor a nostalgia that allows them to think that "it was better in the good old days". Overcoming this resistance to change is paramount.
How do you feel your program is preparing you for those challenges?
Educational Studies creates space for Indigenous ways of knowing, learning, and understanding to be in the program and in the institution. This is imperative in helping me to let my ancestral teachings guide my work. To be surrounded by Indigenous educators and culturally allied others offers opportunities to stay grounded and learn more with confidence.
What aspects of your life or career before now have best prepared you for your UBC graduate program?
As a Sto:lo ascendant I find that my life has prepared me to carry myself in a good way, to honour my ancestors (the ones who came before) and prepare for the ones yet to come. I have had the benefit of many good teachers placed on my path...the ones who have taught with generosity and love...and the ones who have taught me with hard lessons. My eyes and ears have been sharp to the lessons hidden in the landscapes of s'olh temexw (our sacred land) and the concrete of the institutions. Most of all I arrived at a time when it is the right time. And for that I am truly grateful. \*/
What do you like to do for fun or relaxation?
Family and friends offer the best fun and help with relaxation. The lower mainland has lots of great walks and green space. Get to know the Indigenous place names and the rich Indigenous history...it is everywhere you look.
What advice do you have for new graduate students?
I have parking advice...buy on-line the day before. But the graduate school advice I would give is to 1. Believe in yourself; UBC picked you because you are awesome. 2. Attend Grad school functions, no one is an island; get involved in campus life. 3. Trust your Advisor, build that relationship. 4. Get to know the people in your department office - they want to help. 5. Believe in yourself.