President's Service Award - Spring 2007
The numbers tell the story – in 2000, the Native Access Program to Nursing (NAPN) at the University of Saskatchewan supported 58 Aboriginal students. This year, that number doubled, to 117, more than any other nursing education program in Canada. People who have watched this growth say it would not have happened without Val Arnault-Pelletier.
Arnault-Pelletier, a Cree woman who is a member of Beardy’s Okemasis First Nation, has served for the past 10 years as lead student advisor in the Native Access Program in the College of Nursing (NAPN). Her work managing the program and expanding the vision of increased numbers of Aboriginal people in health care careers and balanced, healthy Aboriginal communities has earned Arnault-Pelletier the University’s President’s Service Award.
A graduate of Loon Lake High School and the Saskatoon Business College, Arnault-Pelletier came to the University in 1994. Among her achievements in NAPN is the development of valuable relationships between the University and the community, all of which benefit the program as well as the students who become part of the circle of support. Recently, she has been engaged in expanded NAPN to include students from the College of Medicine, which is dedicated to increasing the number of Aboriginal physicians. As a result, NAPN is now known as Native Access Program to Nursing/Medicine or NAPN/M.
Those who know her describe Arnault-Pelletier as both tenacious and creative in seeking out funding for the program and its projects, and her work has earned both her and the University of Saskatchewan a national and international profile. She is sought after to consult with organizations dedicated, like she is, to recruiting and retaining Aboriginal students and has been a conference presenter at local and regional events.
While recruiting is one aspect of her work, ensuring students continue through their training and into careers is also a focus for Arnault-Pelletier. She and the NAPN staff provide many supports to students throughout their education, including culturally appropriate counseling, academic advising, and financial, personal and academic advocacy. This work even encompasses a few international students who are in need of a community with which to identify.
Always a person who looks to the future, Arnault-Pelletier is working on funding proposals, updating the NAPN/M website to maximize its recruiting potential, and expanding the program’s database with an eye to providing better quality student services. One of her recent initiatives is a collaborative project with Muskoday First Nation to start a summer science camp at the U of S for Aboriginal students.
The numbers do tell the story, but they are only one of many stories that demonstrate why Val Arnault-Pelletier is such a deserving recipient of the President’s Service Award.