First Nations University of Canada (FNUniv) President Dr. Jacqueline Ottmann has been named to the Women’s Executive Network (WXN) Canada’s Most Powerful Women: Top 100 Award Winners for 2023, under the category of Community Impact.
WXN and its partners announced the 2023 Canada’s Most Powerful Women: Top 100 Award Winners, recognizing 103 women across Canada who make a transformational difference in their fields and actively shape a more inclusive future, especially in underrepresented areas. The theme for the 2023 awards is “Like a Legend”. Numerous accolades for Dr. Ottmann’s award are noted at the end of the article.
Dr. Ottmann (mizowaykomiguk paypomwayotung; translation rolling thunder, thunder that can be felt over a large landscape) is Anishinaabe (Saulteaux) from Fishing Lake First Nation in Treaty Four, Saskatchewan. In 2021, Ottmann accepted the role as President of FNUniv, Canada’s national Indigenous university. At FNUniv, she has been raising the university’s profile and influence nationally and internationally, expanding programming and reach across Canada, and being a true role model for Indigenous leadership.
During her career to date, Ottmann has contributed to all levels of education as an elementary and high school teacher, a school principal, and within post-secondary institutions. At the University of Calgary, Ottmann held various scholarly and leadership positions, including Director of Indigenous Initiatives, Program Director, and Co-Chair of the Indigenous Strategy. After 13 years at UCalgary, she became the inaugural Vice-Provost Indigenous Engagement at the University of Saskatchewan, developing the university’s first Indigenous Plan.
Dr. Ottmann is the first Indigenous person to become President of the Canadian Study for the Society of Education, and the founder of Thrivance: Journal of Indigenous Ways of Being, Knowing, and Doing (a journal that is slated to launch early in 2024). Her research interests include leadership, change management, organizational theories and practices, and strategic development. Dr. Ottmann’s leadership is guided by Indigenous knowledges – ways of being, knowing, and doing, and she has been recognized as an international researcher, advocate, and change-maker whose purpose is to transform practices inclusive of Indigenous methodologies and pedagogies.
“I am driven to create schools, organizations, and communities that foster a deeper sense of belonging and appreciation for Indigenous peoples’ histories, stories, philosophies, knowledges, intellect, traditions, and lived experiences,” said Ottmann, “It is an incredible honour to be chosen as one of WXN’s Top 100 women leaders, especially for community impact, for 2023. I have been encouraged to give back to community in good ways by my parents, grandparents, and Indigenous community leaders. This focus and amazing responsibility, along with working for and with community, has not changed in my 34-year career. My work is purpose-driven, and not focused on awards, but it is truly validating when one’s work is recognized by a national panel of leaders.”
The Top 100 Awards span the private, public, and not-for-profit sectors, with the winners selected by WXN’s Diversity Council of Canada. The 2023 winners will be celebrated in person at the 21st annual Top 100 Awards Gala in Toronto on November 30. For a full list of winners, please visit here.
Elder Evelyn Good Striker
Jacqueline is a very wise Saulteaux woman. She is respectable, compassionate, humble, and dedicated to education for the good of all people. Through her and understanding and compassion is able to reach out to everyone, that means ordinary people like me and institutions like the University of Calgary, the First Nations university, corporations, and big business to further Reconciliation. I admire her for her traditional knowledge, language, and practice. I am honoured to know her and call her my friend. Thank you.
Elder Judy Pelly
Leading to make a difference! Dr. Jacqueline Ottmann embraces her Indigenous Ways of Knowing and Being. She collaborates with our Elders Council to ensure the foundations of higher learning are in balance with the worldviews of Indigenous communities. She is a strong advocate for language and culture as foundational to everything in education. Her leadership style is to engage and collaborate with students, professors, Elders, and other leaders. Today, I am proud of Jackie, our Anishinaabe Equay Woman Warrior, a leader most worthy of this award.
FNUniv student, Bachelor of Indigenous Social Work; Student Association member
Dr. Ottmann has demonstrated exemplary leadership as President of First Nations University of Canada. She serves as a powerful role model for Indigenous students, showing them that their heritage is a source of strength and pride, and encouraging them to aspire to leadership positions within their communities and beyond. Under her guidance, the university has flourished as a hub of academic excellence and cultural empowerment, further establishing Dr. Ottmann as a visionary leader in Indigenous higher education.
Student Advisor, FNUniv Northern Campus
The best advice I’ve received is from one of my mentors and role models, President Ottmann, she has taught me something simple, yet immensely important. To lead you must first listen with an understanding heart and then act with a decisive mind. Dr. Ottmann has taught me to always develop good relationships with your mentors, as the people you connect with as a mentor will always serve as a guiding figure in your life. There is a lot to learn from others.
Dr. Shalene Jobin
Vice-President, Academic, FNUNIV
This is an important and well-deserved recognition of the work President Ottmann continues to do to transform post-secondary education for the benefit of Indigenous learners. Her leadership is driven by the vision of those that came before us to have an Indigenous post-secondary institution based on Indigenous ways of knowing, being, and doing.
Dr. Dustin Louis
Director of NITEP, University of British Columbia
When I was a doctoral student and then starting my career as an academic, Dr. Ottmann provided the most remarkable leadership and mentorship to all the Indigenous scholars at the University of Calgary. When she started at UCalgary, she was the only Indigenous scholar in our faculty, in her time there she created transformative change, opened space for two cohorts of clusters hires of Indigenous scholars, while being the matriarch for all of us. Dr. Ottmann is one of the leaders who has transformed post-secondary institutions across western Canada, while maintaining her integrity and generosity of spirit.
Director, Canadian Sustainability Standards Board
Dr. Ottmann is an outstanding role model for Indigenous women, both in academia and in the business world. I deeply admire her groundedness, her intellect, and the way she communicates with others are something I aspire to. hiy hiy Dr Ottmann for showing us that authentic leadership is possible.
Dr. Dru Marshall
Former Provost and Vice President Academic, University of Calgary
Jacqueline is a courageous Indigenous woman leader who has broken ground frequently by being the first woman leader in a position. She has overcome numerous obstacles, including overt racism and misogyny, by being smart, fierce, strategic, and visionary. Jacqueline is very deserving of a WXN Top 100 Most Powerful Women awards.
Dr. Ryan Wiley
President, Shift Health
Jacqueline (Jackie) Ottmann is a visionary, strategic and compassionate leader whose strength is nourished by Indigenous values, knowledge, traditions, and relationships. She brings to postsecondary institutions the transformational decolonizing power of land-based Indigenous leadership, uplifting Indigenous ways of knowing and being and propelling our journey toward Reconciliation.
On a personal note, Jackie has inspired my own growth as a leader. She has helped me to understand and embrace my responsibilities as a partner in Reconciliation. And she has enriched my perspective on what it means to lead with the beauty and sophistication of Indigenous ways of knowing and being.
Jackie is an agent of courageous—and necessary—change. She gives voice to truth and to what’s possible. And she embodies the relentless determination to guide us to a better place in a good way. I can think of no one more deserving of this honour.
President, Wejuseg Construction Inc.
Dr. Ottmann is a discerning and dedicated leader committed to creating a positive impact on our communities through active engagement, the cultivation of connections, and the empowerment of Indigenous voices. Her authenticity, intentionality and approachability are truly admirable. With her tangible influence on the lives of countless people, including nationally and internationally, Jacqueline’s leadership undeniably paves the way for a brighter future.
Director, kihci-okâwîmâw askiy Knowledge Centre, College of AgBio, University of Saskatchewan
This recognition is much deserved, Jacqueline is truly an inspirational leader. She embodies the Cree word sôhkisiw, in English, this means she is strong, but much more than just strong, strong in mind, body, and soul, for herself and for those around her!
Mayor, City of Regina
As mayor, I am fortunate to collaborate with, and learn from, Dr. Ottmann. She is brilliant in both character and intellect, with a sense of purpose few learn to harness. Her efforts as an advocate and international researcher have shaped the landscape of our community, our province, and our country, ensuring that Indigenous leadership and voice are at the center of her work.
Jacqueline has a way of building consensus with grace, patience, and an unmistakeable steely determination. She is a change-maker who is creating hope and opportunity by transforming and creating educational spaces that foster a deeper sense of belonging and appreciation for Indigenous peoples – their histories, stories, and ways of knowing and being.
Her remarkable personal and professional contributions and achievements have made our communities better, and I extend my heartfelt congratulations to Jacqueline for this well-deserved recognition.
Vice Principal, Bishop Carroll High School, Calgary
Dr. Ottmann is an inspiration to all who know her. She was born and raised on the Fishing Lake Reservation in northern Saskatchewan and did not speak a word of English until she attended kindergarten. She worked hard at her studies and through determination and dedication has as President of the First Nations University of Canada risen to one of the highest academic positions in the country. She started her teaching career working with me at a private school for Indigenous students in Calgary. I learned to admire her giving nature and to trust her implicitly. She was an incredible role model for our students and along with her teaching she arranged a field trip for them to her original home in Fishing Lake. The children spent two days there enjoying fishing, playing with their new-found friends, and interacting with the leaders. Dr. Ottmann also took the students from our own school out to the Tsuut’ina Nation numerous times to interview the elders. The project was a great success because of the trust Jackie was able to facilitate between young and not so young.
I admire and congratulate Dr. Ottmann on all her accomplishments. She is a true leader who has earned the respect of Indigenous and non-Indigenous Canadians alike. Her integrity and concern for others have
made her what she is – a truly great Canadian.
Marjorie Paquachan, Jacqueline Ottmann’s mother
I am so proud, and so happy to have a daughter like Jacqueline. She was brave to go to university, the first in our family to go. And she continued her schooling with her dad’s strong encouragement, and look where she is now! I still call her my “little girl”, and she was always little, even when she was the leader amongst all her much bigger brothers when they were younger. Like me, they are also so very proud of their sister Jacqueline.