Student Success

A love of learning spurred Shermayn Menicoche on a unique educational journey

When she crosses the stage to receive her Bachelor of Nursing at Saturday’s convocation ceremonies, Shermayn Menicoche knows her parents couldn’t be prouder.

Growing up in the small town of Fort Simpson in the Northwest Territories, she didn’t imagine she’d ever call Lethbridge home, become a nurse, or be brave enough to live and study in a foreign country halfway around the world.

After finishing high school, Menicoche moved to Yellowknife to work for the territorial government. Her love of learning was sparked when she began taking night courses. After completing four courses, she knew she wanted to pursue higher education full time so she enrolled in a management studies program at Aurora College in Fort Smith. She then set her sights on completing a degree and, taking advantage of a transfer agreement between the two institutions, decided to continue her studies at the U of L.

“That was quite the transition,” she says. “I had never been to Lethbridge prior to moving here and I’d never lived so far away from my family.”

The nursing degree will actually be her second from the U of L; Menicoche completed her Bachelor of Management in 2013. Management was a natural choice of career, as her immediate and extended families are involved in business. As a youngster, she spent a lot of time on the land as her father operated a jet boat business, an eco-friendly tourism company that offered fishing, guiding, sightseeing and cookouts. When she was a little older, she began doing paperwork.

“I always had administrative type of roles growing up,” she says. “I’d work in the summers and, when I graduated high school, I worked for a couple of years for Xah Ndah Resources, a company owned by my mom and her siblings.”

A cousin, who had moved to Lethbridge a year earlier to study management at the U of L, helped Menicoche get acquainted in Lethbridge.

“I love it here and I like the U of L; I really enjoy going to school here,” she says. “They have lots of support systems and because I knew people, I didn’t feel so lonely. It was really easy to meet people.”

While she could have completed her degree in two years, Menicoche opted to do a double major and double minor. For her minor in international management, she completed the Malaysia work-study in Kuala Lumpur and a semester-long exchange to Poznan University of Economics and Business in Poland.

“Those experiences definitely opened up my eyes to the world,” she says. “They let me experience different cultures that I never thought I’d see. I came from a really small town in a remote community in northern Canada. Not everybody from my hometown gets to see things like this. It was really scary to leave and be on my own for three months in Poland but I don’t regret one bit of it.”

After completing her management degree, Menicoche returned to Yellowknife but, by then, southern Alberta had firmly established a hold on her. She became a First Nations, Métis and Inuit recruiter at Lethbridge College, travelling all over southern Alberta, Saskatchewan and British Columbia. While she enjoyed her work, travelling most of the time eventually took its toll.

“I kind of recruited myself into going back to school and I first looked at the U of L to see what type of programs they offered to someone who already had a degree,” she says. “The one that intrigued me the most was the nursing program.”

She completed courses in anatomy, physiology and microbiology and applied to the program.

“I was one of 21 students who were accepted out of more than 350 applicants,” she says. “The program is amazing. There’s a lot of work to it because it’s such a fast-paced, condensed program for two years straight. You develop good relationships with your peers because you’re in every class together and you go to clinicals together.”

The after-degree program offers plenty of hands-on experience. Every semester, students take part in clinical placements for two days a week and the final months of the program are devoted to a practicum, which Menicoche spent in public health.

“It was amazing. I had two preceptors who helped me and they took me under their wings,” she says. “They had a really great work environment and culture there. As soon as I pass the NCLEX (RN exam), I am going to apply to work at the public health office.”