Northern Alberta Institute of Technology

The power of a warm welcome

After reconnecting with heritage, Dawn Lameman rediscovered belonging

When Dawn Lameman (Accounting ’12, Bachelor of Business Administration ’16) first came to NAIT, she didn’t feel quite like she belonged. It wasn’t that she felt left out, she says, pausing to try to describe the experience of being the only aboriginal student in a class of 30.

“You just feel like you’re outnumbered, right?”

At the same time, the 34-year-old mother of 2 felt out of touch with her heritage, which she’d resisted learning about while growing up. Occasionally, she’d walk by the NAIT Encana Aboriginal Student Centre and stop in only briefly, never feeling comfortable staying long.

Then, in 2014, a JR Shaw School of Business leadership course changed all that.

Something was ignited

Lameman’s instructor, Donna Bentley, challenged class members to find out more about themselves by working with a mentor. Lameman decided to seek the help of her uncle, an adviser and instructor at Maskwacis Cultural College, an hour south of Edmonton. She spent 3 days there working on her assignment.

“During that process, I just realized how much was taken away from people that were original to this land. Something inside of me was ignited – it was there before but it was put out for a long time.

“But hearing my uncle talk about how intricate we are … I became very proud again to be who I am. So I owe that to NAIT.”

"I became very proud again to be who I am."

Through her uncle, Lameman arrived at a new appreciation of what her father had tried to teach her while growing up. “I started coming to the Encana Aboriginal Centre. And I felt very welcomed.”

She paid it forward. Lameman became involved in the Prospective Aboriginal Youth program, where she speaks to teens about the value of post-secondary education. Also, she successfully nominated Bentley for the Sen. Thelma Chalifoux Award, which recognizes a commitment to aboriginal student success.

Extending a warm welcome

Today, Lameman spends most of her time in the very place she once felt she didn’t belong. The alum works at the NAIT Encana Aboriginal Student Centre, helping to ensure that students feel welcome on campus and know that there are people who can help them.

“That can make a world of difference in how they succeed – or if they succeed.”

When she meets students who seem reluctant to linger in the centre, she remembers what she went through – and the journey she travelled to get to where she is now – and does her best to make them feel as welcome as she eventually did.

“You let them know that they have some place to go,” she says. “And that they have friends that are going to help them out.”