Staff Stories: Meet Natalie Simkin

Where are you from?

I was born in Edmonton and raised in Vancouver.  I have lived in Hawaii, Williams Lake and Kamloops, where I attended university on the Kamloops Indian Reserve for my Bachelor of Arts degree.


What is your favourite place on campus?

I think it’s probably Nitobe Gardens. It’s very peaceful and serene and a nice place to go read a book, clear your head, or just sit. It’s really lovely, and I like the Longhouse too.


What are your favourite snacks to get on campus?

I don’t usually go out for snacks on campus. Sometimes Alexis and Naomi will bring me things from Starbucks but usually I just bring stuff from home.


Can you tell us one thing you love to do when you’re off work?

One thing I love to do when I get off work is walk. I enjoy walking the city. I live by Kits Beach so I like to go for walks down by the water.  I’m also a member of the Klahoose canoe family and love to get out on the water as often as possible.  I’m also taking a boxing class that really fun.


What would you like NITEP students to know about you?

They can come to me for anything they need and I will try my very best to help them.


What do you like best about being a part of the NITEP?

The thing I like best about being part of the NITEP is that it’s a family. It’s a family of staff and students and instructors and directors, and everyone supports each other. It’s a very warm and welcoming environment. I’m so blessed to work here. It’s been 14 years but it’s gone so quickly. I can’t believe it’s been that long!


What’s the first piece of advice you would give a student who’s considering pursuing a degree at NITEP?

The first piece of advice I would give is, we’re here to support you. Don’t be afraid to reach out and approach anybody on the team. We’re all here to help you be a success!


What do you enjoy most about your job?

The part I love the best… I love all of it! I love working with the staff we have, I love our students, I love the wellness activities because they’re such a good way to connect and get to know the students in the program – all of it!


Can you tell us one moment you felt inspired by the student?

I look at some of our students, especially our older students who are dealing with raising children, balancing school, and having to work, and it takes such a huge amount of dedication. I really admire that that they just keep going and the persevere even though it’s difficult.


Can you talk about your academic journey so far?

I attended school at the Secwepmec Cultural Society/Simon Fraser University Program in Kamloops where I completed a certificate in Native Studies Research, and a Bachelor of Arts degree in Anthropology and Archaeology – I’m actually a trained archaeologist! I also did the Native Adult Instructor Diploma (NAID) program through the En’owkin Centre.  After working in the Interior for several years as an archeologist, I moved back to Vancouver and ended up at UBC. I’ve been very fortunate to work here. I really love it!


What strategies did you use to be successful in university?

I think my biggest success strategy was reading. Do the readings and keep up with your assignments because once you fall behind it really becomes a bigger challenge to get through. I think just being organized and staying on top of things was the thing that helped me most; that and the support of the other students. You’re not going through your university journey alone.


What are the advice and resources you would recommend for helping Indigenous students be successful?

I would say to be successful make use of the supports that are available, and if you’re not sure of what they are, come and speak to Alexis. She can direct you to anywhere you need to go on campus to get the help you need.


What advice would you give to a first-year student who may be nervous about starting their collegiate journey?

For first-year students, it can be overwhelming because the institution is big and it’s all new. Find a group of people you connect with. This is easy to do in NITEP because your cohort is quite small.  Make those connections and know that you’re not on your own, that you have the support of your fellow students and staff and your instructors. It’s everyone’s goal to help you succeed. Don’t be afraid to reach out. I think a lot of first-year students are nervous to approach a staff member or an instructor – don’t be. They’re really here to help!