Kelly Nootchtai is now known in her home community of Atikmakesheng Anishnawbek, an Aboriginal reserve located near Naughton, as the “Maclean’s cover girl.”
The 20-year-old, third-year Laurentian University philosophy and native studies double major is featured on the cover of Maclean’s magazine’s 2011 university rankings edition, which was released last week.
She is one of several Aboriginal women attending university featured in the magazine.
“(Maclean’s) did a call out for Aboriginal women in university,” Nootchtai, who attended her first two years of university in Nova Scotia at Acadia University, said.
“My sister had seen a post on Facebook about it, and she copied and pasted it, and sent it to me. I sent them my picture. They narrowed it to five girls first. They wanted different types of shots. I sent them more pictures. Then they flew me down to Toronto for the day (for a photo shoot).”
Although Nootchtai appears on the cover of the magazine wearing a cap and gown, she has not yet graduated. She eventually hopes to become either a lawyer working in the area of Aboriginal law or a teacher.
“It’s a little nerve-wracking to have all of Canada see your face, but it’s awesome at the same time,” Nootchtai said. “It’s exciting.”
Laurentian University president Dominic Giroux said the fact that a Laurentian student is on the cover of the magazine is a “pleasant surprise.”
“I’m very happy for her and for the university,” he said. “As far as I know, this is the first time a Laurentian student has made the cover of the Maclean’s university rankings.”
This is the second year in a row Laurentian has received special mention in the magazine’s university rankings issue. Last year, Laurentian was named one of three universities “on the radar” because of the learning that happens outside of the classroom.
Giroux said he’s also excited about the fact Laurentian has jumped seven places in the rankings over the past two years.
This year, the university tied with its northern neighbour, Lakehead University, along with the University of Ontario Institute of Technology for 11th spot amongst the 19, primarily undergraduate, universities.
“Two other sources of that increase [are] that relative to other universities, we’ve secured more grants both in the medical and science field, but also in humanities.”
Giroux said Laurentian uses benchmarking tools like the Macleans rankings, and the National Survey on Student Engagement, for long-term planning.
This story first appeared in the Northern Life.