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Campus life 'allowed me to claim my history'

Alumna Carol Ann Budd’s undergraduate years prepared her for career success – and helped her connect with her Aboriginal culture. 

Fresh off vacation time at her cottage in Biscotasing, northeastern Ontario, Carol Ann Budd (Sc’89) is keen to go down to the shore of Lake Ontario. When she was a student, studying engineering chemistry, she loved to venture just off campus for dips in the cool water.

“I love it down here – the wind, the waves, the rocks,” she says, walking along the shore in Breakwater Park.

The connection to nature is important to Carol Ann – from the Sagamok Anishnawbek First Nation, she grew up in Levack, Ont., a small community near Sudbury. Rooted to her surroundings and her family, she says she probably would never have left the area had her brother Raymond Hatfield (Law’84) not encouraged her to continue her education.

From Sagamok Anishnawbek First Nation, Carol Ann Budd (Sc'89) says she loved venturing down to the shore of Lake Ontario when she was an engineering student. (University Communications)

“He went to Queen’s and studied business and law, and wanted me to consider going back to school,” says Carol Ann, who had dropped out of Grade 13 and was not sure what she wanted to do. In the end, she decided to go east and do a pre-science year at the University of Ottawa.

“It was a big culture shock for me, coming from a very small community to Ottawa and to a program that was almost all international students,” she says. “My world was very small in Levack and Ottawa opened that up.”

Carol Ann says, interestingly, it was in that city and in Kingston, at Queen’s later on, where she ended up connecting more fully with her Indigenous heritage. She remembers her grandmother making Indigenous crafts – moccasins and beadwork – but says a lot of the ceremonies and rituals unique to her culture went underground because of the residential school system and the consequent shame people felt about being Aboriginal.

“It was more something to hide. We tried not to point it out,” she says. “When I got to Ottawa, I saw my first pow wow and I thought it was amazing – people were celebrating Indigenous culture. At Queen’s, at Four Directions Aboriginal Student Centre, I went to my first Full Moon Ceremony and hand-drumming events. It was so enriching. It allowed me to claim my history and be proud of it.”

Aboriginal awareness and engagement on campus

Now a community member of Queen’s Aboriginal Council and an engaged engineering alumna, working with Aboriginal Access to Engineering, Carol Ann is impressed with how the university has acknowledged and included Aboriginal culture in its administrative planning and educational programming. She says that while there was always an openness at Queen’s that she didn’t feel elsewhere, it was still clear that a lot of work needed to be done around awareness of Indigenous issues and the need to support Aboriginal initiatives.

“I am so pleased with the progress over the years. Things have really changed on campus, and it’s really clear how a lot of small things add up to big changes in the culture,” she says.

In particular, Carol Ann highlights Principal Daniel Woolf’s leadership, along with Vice-Principal (Finance and Administration) Caroline Davis’ experience with Aboriginal issues as a former public servant, as important factors in how things have shifted on campus. Aboriginal Council is now a more focused entity, and Four Directions, with Janice Hill as Director, is able to offer more to Aboriginal students in the way of guidance and support.

Raising children and a supportive Queen’s community

During her undergraduate years, Carol Ann was very thankful for all the support she received to complete her degree – especially since an unexpected twist sent her life in a different direction for several years.

“I went home to Biscotasing over Christmas in third year,” she explains, pausing before saying, “And I fell in love, and ended up staying and having a baby.”

It was a happy time and the couple had another daughter shortly after. “But we were struggling financially,” says Carol Ann. “I thought it was a bit crazy – here I was with three-quarters of an engineering degree and I couldn’t buy a loaf of bread.”

Carol Ann received congratulatory notes and gifts after the births of her daughters from Queen’s professors, including James McCowan and Don Heyding. She says it was that contact that spurred her to return, and complete her degree.

“People were so supportive and helpful. It kept me going,” says Carol Ann, who had two more children later on. “Here I was on campus, carting two little kids around with me much of the time, but I never felt out of place. I felt welcome and people did whatever they could to help, whether it was finding daycare or teaching me how to use a computer.”

Carol Ann received an honours degree and went on to a successful career in engineering, working at DuPont and INVISTA as a research scientist, and later, in the automotive industry. She now works in a different field, as a financial consultant at Investors Group, after the collapse of the auto industry sent her searching for something different.

In her current consulting work, Carol Ann maintains strong links to local Aboriginal communities and organizations, and hopes to build on her efforts to offer support through financial planning advice.

“There is lots to contribute in this area, and it’s something I love doing – working with clients having unique situations, and applying my problem-solving skills to help them achieve their goals. I find it very rewarding.”