Selkirk College alumnus Michael Graeme is one of only 10 post-secondary students across Canada to receive the prestigious 3M National Student Fellowship Award. He is seen here in Lamas, Peru where he is currently involved in a field course that is the final touch to his undergraduate degree in Anthropology and Environmental Studies. Photo supplied

Selkirk College alumnus Michael Graeme is one of only 10 post-secondary students across Canada to receive the prestigious 3M National Student Fellowship Award. He is seen here in Lamas, Peru where he is currently involved in a field course that is the final touch to his undergraduate degree in Anthropology and Environmental Studies. Photo supplied

National award for Selkirk alumnus

One of 10 winners from across Canada

CASTLEGAR – Michael Graeme’s approach to post-secondary education is that students are an underutilized community asset. The enthusiasm and growing knowledge that learners possess needs to be shared beyond the classroom.

A Selkirk College alumnus who is currently putting finishing touches on his University of Victoria degree, Graeme was recently announced as one of ten 3M National Student Fellowship Award winners. The prestigious award honours undergraduate students in Canada who have demonstrated qualities of outstanding leadership and who embrace a vision where the quality of their educational experience can be enhanced in academia and beyond.

“My vision of education is the creation of a learning environment that connects students with the challenges faced by their communities, ecologies, and the planet as a whole,” says the 26-year-old who graduated from Nelson’s L.V. Rogers in 2010. “Education shouldn’t be a process of slowly stretching the slingshot that will send a student flying into the world at the end of their degree, but should balance the theoretical side with the application side throughout one’s studies.”

Graeme knows plenty about meshing his education with opportunities outside the traditional classroom environment. Since the outset of his post-secondary journey that started at Selkirk College’s Castlegar Campus, Graeme has effectively used his time to explore exciting new territory both academically and personally.

After his first year of studies in the School of University Arts & Sciences, Graeme took a semester off to work and travel. It was while working as a Forestry Technician Assistant in the Slocan Valley that he found his true academic calling when he developed a deeper understanding of the Sinixt First Nation and the injustices that Indigenous people continue to endure.

He returned to his studies in 2013 after being accepted into a Selkirk College international partnership with Japan’s Nagoya University of Foreign Studies which landed him in Asia for ten months. After returning to the Castlegar Campus, Graeme was further inspired when he took a Peace Studies class taught by now-retired instructor Myler Wilkinson.

“This class helped me find a way to overcome my guilt, quit evading accountability of the settler relationship I have in this area, and learn how to build and strengthen relationships rather than perpetuate relationships of oppression,” he says. “It is a journey I am still working on, but that was seeded at Selkirk College.”

Graeme volunteered with Selkirk College’s Indigenous Services department, spearheading a reconciliation and youth outreach project to both honour and help teach youth about the deep history and ongoing legacy of the Sinixt. He completed his studies at Selkirk College as a participant in the Slocan Narrows Archaeology Project field school which facilitates hand-on learning and relationship building with the Sinixt.

With a thirst for more knowledge and a passion for getting involved, Graeme moved onto the University of Victoria to focus on completing a degree in Anthropology and Environmental Studies. After his first year, he received an award which allowed him to study forestry practices for a semester in southern Ecuador which has South America’s highest rates of deforestation.

Outside of his formal studies, Graeme became the head of the UVic Environmental Studies Association and actively involved in a food security/waste reduction club called the Community Cabbage. His leadership and efforts in both of these extra-curricular endeavors helped bolster his ability to secure the 3M National Student Fellowship Award.

Each of the ten winners of the 3M award receives $5,000 and are invited to take part in a collaborative project related to post-secondary education.