Jamaican student makes history at Brandon University
December 21, 2017
A Jamaican parent has done something at Brandon University that no other international student has ever been able to achieve.
Natashalee Thompson, who is enrolled in the Master’s of leadership & education administrative program, is the recipient of this year’s Manitoba Council for International Education (MCIE) international student award in the post-secondary education category.
Launched in 2012, the award program celebrates the accomplishments of Manitoba’s international students who support more than 1,600 jobs and contribute nearly $230 million annually to the province.
The winning student receives a $400 cash prize and a certificate.
“To be the first student from Brandon to win this award is quite an honour,” said Thompson who arrived in Manitoba in August 2016 to pursue graduate studies.
She followed younger brother Derrion Brown who is a third-year business administration student and with whom she and her young son share an apartment with on campus.
“With my sibling being there definitely influenced my decision in enrolling at Brandon,” she said. “It made me feel comfortable coming here. The other thing is Manitoba is a melting pot of cultures and I like that as an international student coming to the province to develop professionally through education. What I find also attractive is the affordability, small class sizes and supportive professors and staff. This welcoming and supportive environment gives me the opportunity to challenge myself and grow in my area of specialization.”
Faculty member Dr. Cathryn Smith nominated Thompson for the award.
“She has taken on a leadership role within the faculty by encouraging other graduate students to attend university-wide events and to consider choosing the thesis rather than the course route in their Master’s programs,” said Smith. “As a member of the graduate student advisory committee within the faculty, she meets with student representatives, the graduate studies director and a faculty member to provide feedback to the graduate certification committee.”
Though busy on campus volunteering and working in the campus bookstore while raising a six-year-old son with minimal family support, Thompson maintains an A+ average.
“It has been quite challenging, but my little boy is my biggest fan and supporter,” Thompson pointed out. “He pushes me to do my very best. I am able to do the things I need to be successful while ensuring he gets the quality time he deserves.”
When Thompson is busy, her brother steps in, helping to take care of his nephew who is enrolled in a French Immersion program in Manitoba.
She graduated from Glenmuir High School in Clarendon and the University of the West Indies where she majored in Spanish. Her minor was in political science and linguistics and she’s also the holder of a post-graduate diploma in modern foreign languages.
A resident of Milk River in Clarendon, Thompson was a member of the community development committee and police youth club and taught at Central High School where she formed a Spanish club.
Fluent in Spanish, she plans to acquire some working experience in Canada before returning to Jamaica to teach or serve as an education officer.
There are 30 Jamaican students at Brandon University. Overall, there are nearly 350 international students from 30 countries attending the university which is one of a very few predominantly undergraduate liberal arts and sciences institutions in Canada.
David Rowland, the director of the office of international activities, recently returned from Jamaica.
“We have Memorandums of Understanding with the University of Technology (UTECH), the Edna Manley College of the Visual & Performing Arts and University College of the Caribbean,” he said. “There is a lot of good traction and hopefully the number of students coming from Jamaica will increase significantly in the next few years.”
Rowland was accompanied by Dr. Heather Duncan and Dr. Greg Gatien who are the deans of the faculties of education and music respectively and Jamaican-born Dr. Balfour Spence who is a professor in the applied disaster & emergency studies department at Brandon.