AU learner using his education to invest in the future of Wabasca
Clayton T. Auger, CFNHM, is a First Nations learner from Wabasca, Alta. He is completing his Bachelor of Commerce (BComm) through Athabasca University’s partnership with the Aboriginal Financial Officers Association of Alberta (AFOA).
Auger, who has been working in finance with Bigstone Cree Nation since 2001, is the Chief Executive Officer of Bigstone Health Holdings Ltd. He currently manages nine different businesses for the Nation, including two dental clinics, two pharmacies, an optometry clinic, Bigstone Medical Transportation, and Bigstone Lot 25 Corp.–the real estate arm of the Nation.
“As an investor, there aren’t a lot of people who are going to get out of school and say, ‘you know what, I’m going to build a clinic in Wabasca,’” Auger says. “So, we actually opened up our own services to provide for our community. The best way to predict our future is to build it.”
Before he started working with Bigstone Cree Nation, most of the Nation’s finance personnel were hired from off-reserve. He saw that his Nation needed help from the inside and decided to pursue a career in finance–a field he feels very passionate about.
“I decided to go that route and get my education,” Auger says. “I dedicated my life to the Nation.”
Initially, he attended Red Deer College for finance after high school and then later went to MacEwan University where he studied finance, and finally returned to Bigstone Cree Nation in 2001.
Auger’s journey has not been without challenges. Although he graduated from Mistassiniy School in Wabasca with honours and a medal from the Governor General, he needed upgrading to attend post-secondary.
“Most First Nations people need that, due to the level of education provided at our local high schools,” Auger says. Between 2012 and 2019, he says that Mistassiniy School didn’t offer science courses.
“During that time in order to go into nursing, you had to take academic upgrading for sciences, because it wasn’t provided at our local school,” Auger says.
“I encourage students at the local high school as well. I’m in a parent group here in Wabasca, where we’re constantly promoting higher education for our youth.”– Clayton Auger
Strong believer in and supporter of education
There were also social barriers that he faced, such as culture shock, when he left Wabasca.
“I think I lucked out because Red Deer isn’t a big city but it’s not a town either. I was able to slowly transition myself. When I went to school, there was an Aboriginal Society, so I joined that group to feel welcome and not so alone–that really helped a lot.”
A strong believer in education, Auger encourages his staff within the Bigstone health sector to take courses related to their field, or anything they’re passionate about.
“I encourage students at the local high school as well,” he says. “I’m in a parent group here in Wabasca, where we’re constantly promoting higher education for our youth.”
Auger has taken courses through Athabasca University–back when remote learning meant that everything was done through email. At that time, he didn’t enjoy this type of independent learning but with new advances in remote education, such as virtually enabled classes and meetings, he finds learning more enjoyable.
“It was the very first we got to know Zoom,” he says. “I thought that was just fantastic. Even though we aren’t face-to-face, our professors are there. When I have a question, they’re able to answer it through sharing a screen. That really helped–I loved it.”
“Even though we aren’t face-to-face, our professors are there. When I have a question, they’re able to answer it through sharing a screen. That really helped–I loved it.”– Clayton Auger
Support for learners
He was particularly impressed by the relationship that AFOA Alberta and the Faculty of Business team members have with students.
“The interaction was fantastic,” Auger says. “With COVID, we were all busy because all of my classmates were in the health field. Robert [Andrews] reached out to us to see if we were okay. It was a good group.”
Using his education in commerce, he is managing several high-profile projects, including a high-density, residential area of 100 homes in the downtown core of Wabasca–not just for members of the Nation, but for everyone.
“There’s a high housing demand in Wabasca,” he says. “We have vacant land that the Nation had owned off the reserve for about twenty years that has been undeveloped. This will build up our community.”
Learn more about about the business degree that’s been written by and designed for Indigenous learners. If you’d like to chat with somebody about enrolment or credit for past education, get in touch with one of AU’s business support team members today!