Sherry Mattice, VIU Alumna and VIU Indigenous Education Navigator

Gaining Confidence to Lead: Sherry Mattice

Celebrating Indigenous mentorship at VIU

Vancouver Island University’s ‘su’luqw’a’ Community Cousins Aboriginal student mentorship program is celebrating its 10th anniversary in September 2021. In honour of this important milestone, we are sharing the stories of 12 people closely connected with the program – one per month – leading up to the anniversary.

The ‘su’luqw’a’ Community Cousins program builds capacity for mentors to gain leadership and employability skills through outreach and mentoring activities. Students hone skills in self-awareness, communication, leadership, self-care and an exploration of personal values, with an emphasis on “telling one’s story” as a path to self-empowerment through outreach to others.

 

Sherry Mattice graduated from Vancouver Island University in 2016 with a Master of Business Administration in International Business – her second degree from VIU (her first was a Bachelor of Business Administration). Little did she know this would just be the start of a long relationship with VIU – as she now works as an Indigenous Education Navigator with the Office of Aboriginal Education & Engagement, helping students find their way at university and be successful. She is also working on her doctorate at the same time.

Mattice’s very active time as a student at VIU started with joining the Community Cousins. She is well-known for spearheading the totem pole project, an initiative that resulted in the raising of three totem poles – one to represent each of the major language groups on Vancouver Island: the Kwakwaka’wakw, the Coast Salish and the Nuu-chah-nulth – at Shq’apthut, VIU’s Aboriginal Gathering Place.

 

What drew you to VIU?

My mom signed me up because she wanted me to move back to Nanaimo. I had been living in Vancouver, working as a health care aid for seven years. My mom graduated from VIU when it was known as Malaspina College.  

 

What are some of the highlights from your time as a student?

I have many wonderful memories as a VIU student, which started when I signed up with the very first cohort of mentors in the Community Cousins program. I was on the VIU Students’ Union as the Aboriginal representative for two years, chair of VIUSU for two consecutive years, joined VIU’s Board of Governors for two years and was the first student appointed to the VIU Foundation board as well. One initiative that I started as VIUSU’s Aboriginal representative was the totem pole project – a partnership between VIU, VIUSU, Mosaic Forest Management and Western Forest Products. I was also selected as a Ch’nook Scholar, a partnership with VIU and UBC for business students, which included a $2,000 scholarship and networking opportunities with other business students.  

 

What have you been up to since graduating?

Right after graduating, I worked as a Financial Services Manager with the Bank of Montreal, where I helped clients with their financial planning and banking needs. I am currently working on a doctorate degree in Business Leadership at Walden University while working full-time as an Indigenous Education Navigator for the Office of Aboriginal Education and Engagement. I am also a mentor for the Rivers to Success program and a member of the Mid-Island Co-op board of directors. Previously I was on the Nanaimo Aboriginal Center’s board both as a Vice-President and a board member.

 

What do you enjoy most about your work as a Navigator?

Connecting with students and community on a personal level. Getting to know my students and helping them realize their dreams of becoming who they were meant to be is such a blessing. The navigator role has enabled me to support and guide students throughout their educational journeys. Travelling to rural, remote communities has helped me understand the unique needs some students come to VIU with. I have created a large network of contacts in each of the communities I work with. I am both proud and honoured to be able to do the work I do.

 

Why should students consider being a cousin?

Being a cousin was more than mentorship – it created a community for me, one I continue to access today. I can call on Cousins even today if I know they have the skills I am looking for. The Community Cousins program gave me the confidence to put myself out there and do public speaking. It is also a great way to give back, and the beautiful part is that you can do it as much or as little as you want. I particularly liked being able to serve people at feasts, luncheons and at speaker series. I also emceed a few events. The biggest part of the Community Cousins program is that it instilled a sense of belonging, a way to give back to my community, and gave me confidence. Without the Community Cousins, I don’t know if I would be a Rivers to Success mentor.  

Community cousins and Uncle Gary, VIU-Elder-in-Residence

"Being a cousin was more than mentorship – it created a community for me, one I continue to access today. I can call on Cousins even today if I know they have the skills I am looking for. The Community Cousins program gave me the confidence to put myself out there and do public speaking."

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