Lori St. Pierre of Havre, a recent graduate of Montana State University’s online addiction counseling graduate certificate program in the College of Education, Health and Human Development, has been named Outstanding Non-traditional Student in the Western United States. The honor was awarded by and recently announced at a regional meeting of the University Professional and Continuing Education Association (UPCEA) in Long Beach, Calif.
Born in 1960 and raised on Rocky Boy Reservation, St. Pierre studied at Stone Child College in Box Elder, then completed a bachelor’s degree in community leadership with a minor in Native American studies from MSU Northern in the fall of 2013 and an addiction counseling graduate certificate from MSU in Bozeman in spring 2014.
Health issues, disability and myriad family commitments hampered her from pursuing her education on many occasions. But, according to the faculty and staff who have worked alongside her, St. Pierre’s commitment to education, in spite of the challenges, provides inspiration for others who wish to achieve their goals.
St. Pierre said she quit school at age 16 but reversed that decision six months later and completed her high school diploma. However, she was unable to pursue a college degree because she was pregnant with her first daughter. Four years later, after complications during her youngest daughter’s birth, St. Pierre said she became addicted to pain medications. She overcame this addiction but said she became addicted to alcohol, a challenge that stayed with her until 1991. However, since that time, she said she has remained sober.
Later in life, after seeking to resume her education at Stone Child College, St. Pierre was affected by a series of illnesses. According to St. Pierre, instructors at Stone Child College and at MSU Northern went above and beyond to help her finish coursework—even traveling to her home 30 miles away from campus when she couldn’t attend in person. With support and advocacy from faculty and advisers, St. Pierre completed her bachelor’s degree and went on to earn a graduate certificate in addictions counseling. She completed the program with a 4.0 grade point average.
“Lori inspires others to seek out education that will help improve the quality of life in rural communities, ultimately giving back to their communities,” said Kim Obbink, executive director of MSU Extended University, who helped nominate St. Pierre for the non-traditional student award.
“Lori exemplifies a graduate student who goes above and beyond all expectations, and stands out in her dedication and passion for learning in the addictions field,” said Katey T. Franklin, director of the addiction counseling program at MSU who served as a student adviser for St. Pierre. “She has overcome pervasive challenges to achieve her lifelong dream of becoming an addictions counselor in order to give back to her community on the Rocky Boy Reservation in rural Montana.
“She is a humble woman who, with the support of her community, has carved her path to her dream with hard-work, fortitude, and courage,” added Franklin. “She deserves to be recognized and celebrated.”
“My cultural upbringing and beliefs indicate that one shouldn’t be recognized for individual achievements unless it will benefit the whole tribe, which I believe this award will do,” said St. Pierre in her acceptance speech. “I hope this recognition will be a model to others in that having patience, perseverance, faith in yourself and support from others will help make your dreams come true. This award means, to me, that people of any age can reach for and attain their dreams and goals in spite of obstacles that may come one's way.”
As the regional award winner, St. Pierre is now eligible to become the national outstanding non-traditional student, an honor that will be announced at the national UPCEA meeting in April in San Diego.
Contact: Sarah Hendrikx, MSU Extended University, (406) 994-6683, firstname.lastname@example.org