Excelling in Multiple Disciplines: Meet Neylan Stevens

Be it academics, dancing or playing volleyball, Neylan Stevens is a Cape Breton University student who excels in all areas. From Eskasoni, First Nation, Neylan will begin her third year in the Bachelor of Arts Community Studies program majoring in Psychology this fall.

Neylan originally chose CBU because it was close to home, and says that decision has paid off. “CBU has been nothing but incredible, I have been enjoying the courses, and my program has helped me narrow down my future career plans,” she says. “CBU has been a massive part of my educational journey.”

The last few years haven’t always been easy due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and Neylan had to attend her first year of classes at CBU online. While she describes the situation as ‘challenging’, she notes that the University dealt with the circumstances well. With in-person classes returning over the past year, students, including Neylan, have been able to get a more immersive experience. “My second year was in person, so I could explore the campus more and it was an incredible year to meet new people from around the world,” says Neylan. “I’m enjoying my program and major a lot, and the professors are so understanding and kind. The classes are small, and I’m able to have a comfortable experience while learning.”

Looking back on her time at CBU thus far, Neylan shares that the highlight has been receiving Honours with Distinction during her first year at the University. She says of all of her professors, Dr. Pablo Santos-Iglesias, an Assistant Professor in the Department of Psychology, stands out. “Pablo Santos-Iglesias is an incredible professor; his psychology statistics class stood out to me the most,” she recalls. “At first, I was very intrigued by the course and quite nervous because math isn’t my favourite subject, especially in high school. Pablo was able to explain the material very well, and when I needed, he was always there to help me, making me calmer about assignments and tests.”

Unama’ki College has also played an important part in Neylan’s University experience. “Unama’ki College has been a safe place for me as a Mi’kmaq student, and I’m glad there is an area for me to study, attend online classes and eat lunch in a quiet place,” says Neylan. “I’m happy there is a place that offers workshops that involve Mi’kmaq crafts where I can practice my culture daily. It’s nice to know there is a community I’m comfortable with, and other Mi’kmaq university students in the same boat as me.”

Outside the classroom, Neylan has been active as a dancer in local productions and was in the Please Do Not Touch The Mi’kmaq show at the Boardmore Theatre this April. “I was able to be a part of the process of creating a show and making it come to life,” says Neylan. “I helped a lot backstage and behind the scenes of the show. I was also a dancer in the play and performed modern/lyrical style, which I choreographed. Overall, it was a great learning experience, and I’m glad my culture was showcased in the theatre world.”

Neylan was also part of Samqwan (the Mi’kmaq word for water) at the Highland Arts Theatre and Neptune Theatre in Halifax this May. A lot of hard work went into bringing the show to life and Neylan is pleased to have put in the effort for her community. “We performed 11 shows which were so rewarding despite the long days. I’m glad I was able to have this opportunity to dance again, which has been my life for 15 years,” she shares. “My experience with Samqwan has been inspiring and moving. I was able to dance with people who have been a part of my dance life for so long. It was refreshing and brought so much comfort to me knowing that I wasn’t dancing for a medal and that I was dancing for my people and culture. I’m proud of my long-time friend Sarah Prosper for creating this show and allowing me to be a part of something special.”

As an Indigenous student, Neylan wants to help her community after completing her program at CBU. “My program will guide me to one day be a clinical social worker/psychologist, take back my knowledge to my community and help my people with mental health and intergenerational trauma,” she says.

At CBU, students are encouraged to experience learning outside of the classroom, engaging in different activities that will help them grow on a professional as well as personal level. We are so glad to have students such as Neylan who show the campus community how beneficial this learning can be.