Deborah Young leads indigenous achievement on campus

Deborah Young is the first executive lead for indigenous achievement at the University of Manitoba. The position, which Young started on July 4, was created to make the university a centre of excellence in indigenous education.

David Barnard, president of U of M, said Young was the perfect candidate for the position.

“Deborah is deeply committed to the cause of indigenous academic achievement, and she brings a wealth of experience and talent to the University of Manitoba and her hard work and leadership are already helping us make progress toward our goal,” he said.

Young holds a master of social work in policy, administration and evaluation and is a graduate of the University of Manitoba. She spent six years as a policy adviser at the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs, and was at the Aboriginal Affairs Secretariat, Privy Council Office, where she worked on the First Nation educational component of the Kelowna Accord. Young is also a member of the Opaskwayak Cree Nation, a First Nation in Manitoba.

After spending many years outside of Manitoba, Young said she is happy to be back in the province and at the U of M.

“It is such an honour to come back. I am back home and that’s what I love,” she said. “I love this university.”

Young said as soon as she read the posting about the new position on the university website, she knew she wanted to apply for this job.

“I didn’t think I would be the successful candidate, but I thought it was a fantastic position with so much great potential [ . . . ]. It was a dream job for me,” she said.
Young said it she went through a rigorous interview process in order to get the job.
“I think it was a fair process [ . . . ], and I learned more about myself.”

Since starting the position six months ago, Young said she has been hard at work.

“I have really made a point and a real effort to meet as many people as I can, both here in Fort Garry and Bannatyne campus, just to let people know who I am,” she said.

Young said she wants everyone to know where she is going to in terms of enhancing indigenous achievement at the university.

She said she has four directions to indigenous achievement: supporting students, building partnership and supporting communities, promoting indigenous knowledge and research, and celebrating First Nation successes.

“This is basically my framework, and this is what I have been going out and sharing with U of M community,” she said.

Through her job, Young said she wants to promote the love of learning for a younger generation.

“My message is simple: get our kids to love learning, get them curious about education and knowledge,” she said.

For Kerry Spence, UMSU aboriginal students’ rep, Young’s position is essential in order to reinforce the value of education among aboriginal students, both future and current, and it also ensures their success.

“Not only is it great to have such a great role model like Deborah, but to have someone with such achievements and passion like her as executive lead to serve the students is beneficial,” said Spence.

Young recently created a new Facebook page to highlight local, national and international indigenous achievements and issues. She said the aim of the page is to be an open forum for discussion.