For Shelley Augustine, St. Thomas University became a community away from her community.

A Criminology major from Elsipogtog First Nation, Shelley had never moved away from her community until she decided to pursue a Bachelor of Arts degree at STU.  She discovered a welcoming environment within the tight-knit campus.

“I appreciated the Wabanaki Student Centre and really took advantage of that space,” she said. “It’s a bit like walking into a different world coming from a really close-knit family and community, but it felt like a part of home.”

The Wabanaki Student Centre also gave Shelley the opportunity to meet students from different First Nation communities.

“Having those relationships and building those connections was the highlight of my time here,” she said. “I cherish them now.”

Shelley completed her degree in two years—dedicating the spring and summer of 2017 to her studies. Although it was a sacrifice, she recognized the value of her education.

“It was challenging, but in a good way. It challenged my intellect, how I should go about things, and showed me how to be more analytical,” she said.

“I have a broader way of processing things now.  I’m able to start with the big picture and slowly develop my own thoughts and theories. I developed that here.”

Shelley graduated with a major in Criminology and a double minor in Sociology and Native Studies in May.

While she’s looking forward to her next challenge, she isn’t ready to say goodbye to St. Thomas yet.

“This little world of STU became my world, so I’m having a hard time detaching from it,” she said. “It’s like my community away from my community.”

Shelley won’t be completely detached from STU. This fall, she’ll begin her studies in STU’s School of Social Work. With previous experience in corrections, she’s eager to get a new perspective on important societal issues.

“I worked at one end of dealing with First Nations people going into the corrections system, but now I want to catch them before that,” she said. “Whatever I can do to help them, I want to do it. That’s my goal.”