Future alumnus

Through their words: Mathew Fleury

June 05, 2023

Mathew Fleury is currently working towards his PhD in health sciences. Mathew is a Nēhiyawak (Plains Cree) and proud member of one of the founding families of the Métis Nation, where he has deep roots in Manitoba’s Red River Valley. He draws on his own lived, academic and professional experiences to apply grassroots approaches in research and policy to issues impacting Indigenous peoples, including HIV/AIDS, harm reduction, mental health, and accessibility.

Mathew works as a research and knowledge exchange manager at the First Nations Health Authority. In addition to teaching at North Island College and the University of British Columbia, he is also an adjunct professor at SFU and a research associate at the BC Centre for Disease Control. He is a recipient of the Biagioni Indigenous Graduate Entrance Scholarship.

In Mathew's words:

As an interdisciplinary health scientist, community-based researcher, activist, artist and storyteller with lived and living experiences as a neurodivergent, queer, and Two-Spirited individual, I am incredibly passionate about the intersections between activism, community and science, and using that knowledge to advance inclusion and human rights.

I come from a long line of Indigenous leaders on both sides of my family, and so having a strong sense of social justice is an innate thing for me—I’ve always had a deep longing to address and fix what doesn’t feel right. I especially received so much mentorship from the Indigenous women in my life, the backbones of our community. My research now focuses on illuminating the efforts that communities are undertaking towards public health sovereignty. I aim to draw parallels between Indigenous methodologies, queer theory, and 'hard' science to examine the scientific and sociopolitical impacts of HIV/AIDS on Indigenous peoples.

When I think about how many Indigenous health scientists are out there and how many Indigenous students can see themselves reflected in that space—that’s what motivates me to do this work. I am someone who has the opportunity to occupy that space, to be socially engaged, and to also build capacity for the next generation of Indigenous scientists. I also want to show people that Western and Indigenous science can actually coexist, and that Indigenous science is still science.

The Biagioni Indigenous Graduate Entrance Scholarship has allowed me to pursue my PhD without financial barriers, and I am immensely grateful to the Biagioni family for their ongoing generosity and kindness. They’ve really inspired me and shown me what it means to be a philanthropist, and I hope that one day I’ll get to do something just like that.

In honour of National Indigenous History Month, we asked four students and alumni to share their perspectives, as well as reflect on their SFU experience, the impact of donor funding on their studies, and their hopes for the future. Read their stories: