The Worlds Thy Hands Have Made
Andie Albert ’22 is enjoying success in academia through her love of the natural environment.
5 min. read
March 25, 2024

Andie Albert ‘22, PhD candidate at the University of Guelph, never expected to be where she is today. As a First Nations first-generation post-secondary student, she says succeeding in academia wasn’t something she’d anticipated.

She was completing her undergraduate degree in environmental science at СƵ when the COVID-19 pandemic began and she found online and hybrid studies challenging. But when she was able to get out into the field and do hands-on work, everything changed.

“I had average grades, but I really excelled in the courses I loved, like Field Ecology,” she says. Albert has loved snakes and turtles since she was a little girl, so being out in creation was a natural fit for her.

Albert speaks highly of the hands-on work and the skills she was able to acquire at СƵthrough the Chedoke Watershed water quality monitoring program. She also found the experience gained through summer courses taken through Redeemer’s partnership with Au Sable Institute to be invaluable along her path, after some initial reluctance.

… getting that hands-on experience really kickstarted my career in the environment.

“They talked me into going and it was the best thing of my entire life!” she says of the two months of classes and field work required for honours environmental science students. Albert completed courses in aquatic biology and conservation biology and says she found her passion for working with fish and turtles. “I speak so highly of Au Sable–the time there, the people that I met there and the education that I got from Au Sable … getting that hands-on experience really kick-started my career in the environment.”

Albert completed an internship in her fourth year at СƵworking with at-risk species back home with Chippewas of the Thames First Nation, where she would eventually gain full-time employment building a species at risk program from the ground up. It wasn’t until she was working on her thesis at СƵthat a professor asked her if she would be continuing her studies after graduation. It sparked her interest in the master of environment and sustainability program at Western University, but she didn’t anticipate being accepted.

“I applied to Western on a whim and two weeks later got an early acceptance letter,” she said, still exhibiting much of the surprise she felt that day. The master’s program at Western offered an accelerated nine-month program in a class of 40 students. While Albert felt inspired by her studies, she says she also felt a lot of imposter syndrome.

“I’m the first from my family to go away to post-secondary. It was never expected that my brother and I would excel in the academic world. I don’t think it’s expected for any Indigenous kid to necessarily excel in the academic world.”

As an Indigenous Christian in environmental science programs, Albert has had to look at creation through multiple lenses.

“There’s always that pressure, especially in the environmental world, to understand the Western methodology, but to also look to the holistic Indigenous side and how we view the world and earth itself. It’s always walking a fine line between the different worlds,” she says.

It was God’s calling. The timing, everything worked out so well.

As a СƵstudent she learned to include the Christian perspective in all of her research papers and says she has carried on that habit throughout her graduate studies.

“At Western I was still doing that. I felt a calling to do it.” She says the director of her program read one of her papers and said it was so refreshing to see things tied together with Biblical references. She continued to use Scripture even in her PhD application.

When it came to applying to her PhD, it felt like history repeating. She’d never intended to go any further with her studies and didn’t expect to be accepted. But when she saw the posting for the research topic—Optimizing community-based wildlife monitoring: Prioritizing Indigenous knowledge, systems and values—she felt compelled to apply because it felt like a perfect fit for her.

“It was God’s calling. The timing, everything worked out so well.”

Her PhD has her working with Magnetawan First Nation, doing land-based learning, bird monitoring, setting camera traps and studying small animal biodiversity. While her current focus is set on completing her PhD, she says her future hope is to eventually bring her research and learnings back to her First Nation and perhaps do some teaching with Au Sable.

The struggle with imposter syndrome continues as she finds her footing in her PhD program, but her parents have been an incredible support system for her to lean on. “My mom encourages me to pray to God for his guidance every day, and at the end of the day to be grateful to God for that day and all the opportunities he’s given me.”

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