Connecting to your roots: Michelle Rivers Path

Michelle Rivers smiles as she stands in front of the living wall in the Mohawk College Fennell Campus library.

What’s 2+2? If you’ve been keeping up with Count von Count, you’ll be confident the answer is four. To Michelle Rivers, a General Arts and Science Diploma (University Transfer) student, 2+2 means so much more. It’s the opportunity to get a college diploma and a university degree in only four years. 

Michelle returned to college after years working in office administration and customer service for the majority of her career. She wanted a fresh start, a career that she could be passionate about.  

She discovered her passion as she was exploring her Indigenous roots, which she only recently learned about. “I am Anishinaabe, and it’s important for me to learn about Indigeneity so I can teach others,” said Michelle. “A lot about my culture is being reciprocal and giving back. It has a lot to do with keeping our languages, keeping our cultures alive, and cultural awareness. Guiding others to reconciliation and showing them that it is possible. I’m very proud to be Anishinaabe.” 

The General Arts and Science Diploma program pathway to an Indigenous Studies Degree program at McMaster University and Wilfrid Laurier University seemed like the perfect fit. To take advantage of this pathway, students explore Indigenous history, culture and perspectives in 8 mandatory courses. Students who have completed these 8 courses and are ready to graduate have the option to carry on to McMaster University or Laurier University and complete an Indigenous studies degree program. The two years students spend at Mohawk College in the General Arts and Science program will be counted towards university degree completion, meaning students will only need to spend two more years to earn their four-year degree – thus the name 2+2 pathway. 

Exploring her connection with the Anishinaabe community and their history has been a driving force behind Michelle’s passion for Indigenous studies. “The Indian Act, the residential schools, the 60’s Scoop, have all affected my life, my ancestors, and my family, so it’s important for to get into a career that facilitates reconciliation.” 

Michelle believes the General Arts and Science program is great opportunity not only for Indigenous people looking to learn more about Indigenous culture, but non-Indigenous people as well. “I think non-Indigenous students have an excellent opportunity to learn about Indigenous culture, reconciliation, and to become allies to help us build equality and build reconciliation within all of our communities,” said Michelle. 

More than just the knowledge she is gaining, there are many benefits to taking advantage of the pathway option. “It saves time, it saves money. It gives a lot of encouragement, and the program at Mohawk College prepares you for university. I feel better prepared, and I feel like I can actually go to McMaster as a student,” she said. “The pathways program is really amazing because it sets you up for success when you graduate from Mohawk College and go on to university, whether it’s Laurier or McMaster.” 

Since she first joined the program, Michelle feels it helped her to achieve her goal of connecting with her roots. “This program has given me a confidence that I didn’t have before, and it’s given me confidence in my Indigeneity as a First Nation Anishinaabe woman,” she said. I feel proud to be Anishinaabe, I feel proud to be First Nation, and I feel confident talking to people about First Nation issues.” 

Michelle is grateful for the opportunities the General Arts and Science pathway into an Indigenous Studies Degree has given her. “When I graduate in April, I’ll have the opportunity to enroll at Laurier or McMaster,” said Michelle. “I plan to start at McMaster in September in Indigenous Studies. The 2+2 pathway enables me to come out of my education with a college diploma and a university degree.” 

Now that she is in her final semester and looking back, Michelle believes the General Arts and Science program can be a good fit for just about anybody. “I would recommend it for everyone and anyone, especially anybody who is unsure about coming back to school. It’s a great way to test the waters,” said Michelle. “It’s an excellent way to find out who you are, what you like, what’s your passion. And, if you want to pursue your interests further, there are pathway options for more education.” 

Michelle has a heart-felt message to share with students. “My advice is to not be hard on yourself. Be good to yourself, talk kindly to yourself, know that you’re a good person and that you can do it. It might take baby steps, you might take leaps and bounds, but you’ll get there. Just be true to yourself.” 

We acknowledge that Mohawk College is situated on the traditional territory of the Haudenosaunee and Anishinaabeg nations, within the Dish with One Spoon Wampum Agreement, and is home to many Indigenous peoples from across Turtle Island.

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