Campus News

Published by Communications and Public Affairs (519) 824-4120, Ext. 56982 or 53338

News Release

June 23, 2004

U of G student named national aboriginal role model

A University of Guelph student has been selected as one of Canada’s 12 national aboriginal role models. The National Aboriginal Health Organization (NAHO) announced this week that environmental biology PhD student Cara Chamberlain will join their “Lead Your Way!” program to share her success with other Aboriginal youth.

“Being selected as a role model means a lot to me,” said Chamberlain. “I think it’s important to encourage younger aboriginal women to go into science. This will give me the opportunity to go into communities and do outreach work.”

Chamberlain, a 26-year-old from Hanmer, Ont., who is of Algonquin heritage, has completed all of her post-secondary education at the U of G. She completed a B.Sc. in plant biology in 1996 and a master’s degree in environmental science in January before beginning her post-graduate work.

Chamberlain is the founder of U of G’s Aboriginal Student Association, a group that was formed in Oct. 2001 and has since grown to include 100 students. “Cara had a strong vision for how aboriginal students could feel welcome at the university,” said Jamie Mishibinijima, aboriginal student advisor, Student Life and Career Services. “She has excellent leadership skills and is able to balance her academic and extracurricular activities.”

The NAHO, an aboriginal- designed and -controlled body that works to influence and advance the health and well-being of aboriginal, began the “Lead Your Way!” program this year to inspire aboriginal youth to reach for their goals.

The role models are aboriginal youth between the ages of 13 and 30 nominated by members of their community. Mishibinijima nominated Chamberlain because “without Cara there wouldn’t be resources for aboriginal students on campus,” she said.

The role models were selected by a working group of aboriginal youth. Posters and trading cards of the 12 role models will be sent to aboriginal schools across Canada. Chamberlain and the other role models will attend community celebrations and visit schools to talk about their experiences.

Chamberlain says she had been on campus for five years without having any aboriginal experiences. Since forming the Aboriginal Student Association, she has been involved in peer mentoring and creating experiences on campus that she and other aboriginal students miss by being away from home.

"Our big mandate is to make sure all students are welcome,” said Chamberlain. “We want to be a bridge to bring our peers together, increasing awareness and understanding and breaking down stereotypes. We want to be a very safe space for anyone who is looking into aboriginal culture for personal reasons or for academic work."

Cara Chamberlain
Aboriginal Student Association
University of Guelph
(519) 824-4120, Ext. 58074 or

For media questions, contact Communications and Public Affairs: Lori Bona Hunt (519) 824-4120, Ext. 53338, or Rachelle Cooper, Ext. 56982.

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