Trailblazer – Truman Tremblay becomes Western’s first Indigenous Doctor of Education

December 21, 2017

Truman Tremblay became Western’s first Indigenous student to graduate with a Doctor of Education degree. (Photo courtesy of Truman Tremblay)

History has been made at the Faculty of Education with Truman Tremblay becoming the faculty’s first Indigenous student to graduate with a Doctor of Education (EdD) degree.

“I was quite surprised and thrilled,” said Tremblay when he learned about his accomplishment. “I hope it opens the doors to Indigenous graduate students so they can represent the faculty and university,” he added.

Tremblay’s milestone is more than a Western Education accomplishment. He’s also the first person to receive a doctorate from his community – St. Mary’s First Nation – which is located near Fredericton, New Brunswick.

“I hope my doctorate provides motivation to others to pursue advanced education and the educational opportunities that are available to them,” he said.

Christy Bressette, co-chair of Western University’s task force on implementing the university’s new Indigenous strategic plan, was an external examiner for Tremblay’s Organizational Improvement Plan (OIP) defense. She’s very excited about Tremblay’s accomplishment because he’s breaking down barriers for Indigenous students, especially at the graduate level. She added it’s important to have Indigenous persons who are committed to social justice so they can help improve society.

The EdD in Educational Leadership is an online doctoral degree that teaches seasoned educators and professionals about specific, research-informed practices, which allows them to apply what they’ve learned in their workplace. Students can also apply their knowledge to their leadership roles so they can have a positive impact and promote sustainable change at work.

Tremblay has applied the knowledge he’s learned from the program at work, including his duties as a local chapter vice-president of his union. He also hopes to use the skills that he’s learned to get elected to the national bargaining team.

“I view things through different lenses to different situations I find at work,” he said.

Tremblay also believes the EdD program will provide future opportunities when he retires from the public service. Eventually, he wants to teach criminology, public administration or leadership with an emphasis on programs geared towards Indigenous students at a post-secondary institution.

Tremblay is a parole officer with Correctional Service Canada and he defended his OIP, “Aboriginal Offender Parole Outcomes,” over the summer. Throughout the three years of the program, he was surprised at the exceptional nature of his classmates. He also found his colleagues were collaborative as everyone helped each other through their journey. He also thought students benefitted from how the EdD program was structured. The degree is based on a cohort model, which meant Tremblay had the same classmates in every class. This consistency made it easier for everyone to provide support to each other.

He also stressed the faculty was very supportive and professors wanted the students to succeed.

“I met great classmates and faculty who were incredible. They were motivational and inspirational and they helped us through,” he said.

Although Tremblay has graduated, he’s still associated with the Faculty of Education. He’s becoming a mentor to Indigenous students in the faculty. Right now, he’s working with the faculty to determine what the mentorship will look like but he’s looking forward to providing guidance to students who are entering the Faculty of Education and to the Western community. He’s already taken the first step as a mentor by providing his insights as a guest speaker to a class.

“I want to be there to reach out to students and to be someone who they can talk to and to help them,” he said.

Bressette thinks it’s a great idea for the faculty to invite Tremblay to be a mentor. She feels mentorship adheres to the Indigenous culture of collaboration. She also believes mentorship will be natural for Tremblay.

“He will be a good role model for everyone, especially for Indigenous students who want to pursue advanced education,” she said. “He’s paved the way for others to pursue advanced degrees.”