JSGS student receives Indigenous Student Achievement Award for exemplary leadership

As a northern Métis man from Cumberland House, John Desjarlais is working towards finding solutions that address the challenges and opportunities faced by his community and the greater circumpolar world.

On February 7th, John Desjarlais, Master of Governance and Entrepreneurship in Northern and Indigenous Areas (GENI) student at the Johnson Shoyama Graduate School of Public Policy (JSGS), will be presented with the Indigenous Graduate Leadership Award for his excellent demonstration of leadership, both professionally and academically.

“I am so grateful to be receiving this award. It is a meaningful representation of the work I do and validates that I’m supporting northern and Indigenous communities based on their needs and in the spirit of inclusive good governance.”

This award is part of the University of Saskatchewan’s (USask) Indigenous Achievements Week—February 4, 2019 to February 8, 2019. Indigenous Achievements Week celebrates the successes and contributions of Métis, First Nations and Inuit students, staff and faculty to areas such as academics, research, education, community engagement and leadership.

Early in his professional and academic career, Desjarlais assumed numerous leadership roles. As a student, he became President and then Treasurer of the Northern Administration Students Association and President of the Indigenous Students Council at USask. In his career, he has worked as an entrepreneur, Professional Engineer, and currently the CEO of Saskatchewan River Business Corporation. He also invests his time as a volunteer elected councillor for the Association of Professional Engineers and Geoscientists of Saskatchewan (APEGS), where he chairs the Indigenous sub-committee. He also sits on the equity and diversity committee, K-12 committee, and the education board

As a northern Métis man from Cumberland House, Desjarlais is working towards finding solutions that address the challenges and opportunities faced by his community and the greater circumpolar world. With a background in business and engineering, and research interests in STEM fields, Desjarlais embarked on his GENI journey to better understand public policy and resource development in northern regions.

“I was very interested in learning and contributing to a particular field. I found the JSGS to be pragmatic with a considerable professional development dimension. I love learning and contributing to bodies of knowledge, however I am excited by the actual execution of this knowledge that is possible through the GENI program.”

The GENI program led him to actively lead the duty to consult process for the Cumberland House Cree Nation on the re-licensing of SaskPower’s EB Campbell hydroelectric dam, ensuring that community and traditional cultural concerns are addressed. In addition to this project, he has also been able to support community initiatives in developing a culture and land-based tourism market, Highway 123 road improvement lobbying efforts, as well as training and development planning.

Murray Fulton, Director at the JSGS, commends Desjarlais for his exemplary leadership, both academically and professionally, “I am delighted to award John the Indigenous Graduate Leadership Award. He has flourished academically and has been a constant source of support to other graduate students. Through his initiative and work with Cumberland House, John has gone well beyond his expected role as a graduate student. He is an excellent ambassador for the JSGS and the University of Saskatchewan.”

Desjarlais has been commended for his leadership in the past, having received the USask Engaged Alumni Award and the 2011 Walter Murray Leadership Award, as well as being nominated for CBC’s 2016 Saskatchewan Top 40 under 40.

In 2001, Desjarlais completed university classes at NORPAC and a certificate in Radiation and Environmental Monitoring at Northlands College in La Ronge. He has also completed a Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering, and Professional Communications Certificate both in 2011, a Maintenance Management Certificate and a Master of Business Administration both in 2015, all at USask. He is working towards completing the GENI program by 2020.