Maureen Simpkins & Marleny M. Bonnycastle

At the University College of the North, women make up approximately 80% of the student population in the Faculty of Arts and in the Nursing program (UCN, 2012). In the University of Manitoba’s Northern Social Work Program, 87% of students are female. These reflect a trend across Canada, where 3 out of 4 Aboriginal students are female (Holmes, 2006). We know anecdotally and from experience that the majority of those women also have children, many are single-parent mothers and many have responsibilities for their extended family. This means that these students tend to come and go over a number of years rarely finishing a 4 year degree in 4 years. Using “retention rates” typically used by many post-secondary institutions, the “success” of students who don’t follow the traditional 4 year path is made invisible in the statistics. This invisibility leads us to look to other ways of measuring success. In this paper, we try to answer two questions. First, how do female students define and measure their own successes? Second, what factors have contributed to their successes and what impact has their success had on family and community? In answering these questions, insights are provided that underline both the individual and the collective returns of post-secondary education in a northern region.

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