Lighting the way for students with disabilities

Published on April 24, 2023

Equipped with the values and lived experiences she carries from her parents, Wendy Marusin has dedicated her life and career to raising people up. And by creating NAIT bursaries in their memory, she’s helping to light the way for students during times of need. 

“Both of my parents came from very modest backgrounds,” says Wendy, NAIT’s manager of student learning success. “That message of always giving back and always being grateful for what you have was a big part of my upbringing.” 

As a youth, Wendy learned from the challenges her parents faced as well as from their resilience. Her mother, Louise, contracted polio at age 15, causing her to miss a year of high school while she recovered. She completed her high school education as an adult via distance learning and became a writer and mentor involved in the Canadian Authors Association. In her late 30s, Louise was diagnosed with a rapidly progressing form of Multiple Sclerosis and eventually became a full-time wheelchair user.  

Wendy’s father, Frank, who owned an electrical automotive parts business, suffered a stroke in his mid-30s and never fully recovered. Both of her parents passed away in their 40s. 

“The treatment and interaction of my parents shifted, where they went from being respected individuals and contributing members of society to becoming almost invisible, or just less than — the impact of that is huge.” 

Inspired by their experiences and her desire to be a champion for people with disabilities, Wendy began her NAIT career 20 years ago working in career counselling and career services, where she specialized in student finance grants and supporting students with disabilities.  

In addition to two bursaries in each of her parents’ names (The Frank Marusin Parts Technician Apprentice Bursary and the Louise Marusin Academic Upgrading Bursary), Wendy also created The Charles “Chuck” Peterson Students with Disabilities Bursary in memory of an admired colleague and government grant program liaison, Chuck Peterson, who worked tirelessly to support students and was legally blind). 

“Everyone has a story and could be experiencing multiple barriers. I see the bursaries as helping to address one barrier that folks often encounter, and that is the financial barrier. If that's one thing that I can help alleviate, then I am happy to do it.”