learning

Lifelong learner advocates for Indigenous peoples’ health and well-being

June 21, 2019
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By Clement Woo

Sheryl Thompson, a Cree-Métis scholar and community activist, credits her university experience for providing her with countless opportunities for growth and advancement, allowing her to support the interests of Indigenous people at SFU and beyond.

A strong advocate for creating welcoming and inclusive spaces for Indigenous students at SFU, Thompson has served on the university’s Aboriginal Reconciliation Council, volunteered as a peer mentor, co-facilitated anti-oppression workshops and organized camps that introduced Indigenous youth to university life.

Last week, Thompson graduated with a bachelor of arts in health sciences (honours with distinction), minoring in First Nations studies. Not only was she part of SFU’s largest Indigenous graduating class, Thompson also received the Gordon M. Shrum Undergraduate Medal, recognizing her high academic standing and extracurricular activities, which demonstrate her outstanding qualities of character and unselfish devotion to the university.

“The BA in health sciences has allowed for a lot of self-direction and personal exploration,” says Thompson.

Her research with professors Kelley Lee and Julia Smith into the illicit tobacco trade in Canada led to co-authoring five published peer-reviewed articles, one of which was for her honours degree. When Lee’s Global Tobacco Control Research Team recently embarked on a new project examining Indigenous health related to tobacco usage and policy, the topic aligned perfectly with Thompson’s interests. She enrolled in the accelerated master’s program, which allowed her to apply 10 graduate units towards her BA while pursuing Indigenous health research.

“Finding answers to puzzles and understanding why things happen the way they do has always been interesting to me and I enjoy sharing what I have learned with others,” says Thompson, a mother to seven children. “The net result is that I love doing research.”

As an MSc student, her interests focus on improving the health outcomes for Indigenous peoples by promoting Indigenous understandings and holistic wellness practices, including promoting the education of healthcare experts who work and research in the field.

Her long-term goal is to complete a PhD and teach emerging researchers how to conduct engaged, collaborative and meaningful research.

“The opportunities to advance reconciliation at both the university and faculty levels exposed me to hardworking, considerate, and progressive staff, faculty and administrators who all strive to create a safe and inclusive campus for all students.” says Thompson.

“Through my service, I have created connections to incredible people who, in turn, have filled my SFU experience with meaning.”