Lucas Waye knows what it’s like to be on the margins. After diving into Indigenous studies at Mount Allison University (MtA), he’s ready to serve others experiencing similar challenges.
Growing up in Sackville, New Brunswick, Waye feels like he was pre-destined to attend MtA. His mother, Susan, has also worked as the college’s accessibility services advisor for as long as he can remember.
Despite being in honors, Waye used to struggle with his grades. As a person with dysgraphia, he would often receive poor marks, even if his answers were correct—because his teachers could not read his handwriting. In high school, he learned more about MtA, including internship opportunities at the Meighen Centre, which offers services and accommodations to students with disabilities. The Johnson Scholarship Foundation has provided a matching challenge grant to support academic and work experiences for students with disabilities served by MtA’s Meighen Centre.
Now in his third year and excelling in classes, Waye will be the first student at Mount Allison to earn a double major in Indigenous studies and political science. Only one other student is pursuing Indigenous studies, an interdisciplinary program that must be pre-approved by the university. Waye credits his success to MtA’s accessibility services, small class sizes, and supportive environment.
“The university offers a whole slew of accommodations,” says Waye, who is also on the dean’s list. “I can take a test by talking to the computer, which will write [the answers] for me—so I don’t have to struggle or lose marks.”
Waye recalls the moment he realized his enrollment at MtA was meant to be, after completing a particular class project.
“I’m very meticulous with my work,” Waye explains. “I spent a ridiculous amount of time [on the project] for my Indigenous Research Ethics course. I went the extra mile.”
He adds that it was the hardest experience in college yet.
“When I finished the presentation, my professor looked at me and said it was amazing—and that she wanted to be invited to my dissertation,” he beams. “It felt good because I put a lot of work into it.”
Waye’s first encounter with Indigenous studies was in high school while taking a Mi’kmaq language class. But in his first year at Mount Allison, he declared a major in political science, unsure of his future. That same year, he took Introduction to Indigenous Studies, a class that turned out to be incredibly difficult.
“The way the language is, the words and how they’re broken down, you can feel the culture bleeding through the language,” says Waye. He also took an elective called Traditional Ecological Knowledge—but this time, something was different.
“For me, it quickly became about the content of the course. I wanted to learn more,” he says. “You learn about how Indigenous cultures and methodologies are integrated with nature and have this [holistic] approach. They hold so much knowledge that we are ignoring.”
Though Waye is not Indigenous, he feels a parallel connection to the community, identifying as transgender. Like many historically marginalized groups, Waye says he fears his voice—and rights—may someday disappear.
“The more I listen, learn, meet people, and read, the more connected to the cause I feel,” he says. “Hope rests in Indigenous voices and ideas.”
After graduating, Waye wants to pursue postgraduate research. He’d like to work with Indigenous women, revitalizing their traditional ecological knowledge in Canadian literature. Still, he says it’s not about his efforts—it’s about working hand-in-hand with the communities.
“I’m there to listen,” he says. “Historically, women’s voices have been underrepresented or misrepresented, and [that] is a huge disservice. I want to preserve and document the knowledge with these communities.”
While reflecting on his time at MtA, Waye recalls the importance of applying oneself and making the most out of college.
“I cut out this degree for myself, but I had to find it,” he says. “University students [often] see it as a way to get a job and then make money, but [they] should see it as a way to grow a different set of skills. You have this opportunity to make a path for yourself. If you pursue what you want with intentionality, hard work, and critical thinking, you can succeed.”