Four years ago, graduating from college seemed out of the picture for Marcus Vivier. The Belcourt, N.D., native already had transferred schools twice, changed his major twice and was ready to give up.
He wasn’t going to be an architect. And his heart was no longer in music. He knew that. But what he didn’t know was how he was going to break the news to his family — and especially his mom — that he had decided to quit school.
“That was probably the hardest phone call I’ve ever had with my mom,” Vivier said. “I was in downtown Fargo, standing on a corner, just walking back and forth because I was so scared to call her.”
He eventually mustered the courage to call.
She was supportive and told him she was proud of him for giving college a try. Yet, Vivier said the hesitation in her voice couldn’t hide the fact she was disappointed.
For the next several months, he felt lost. With no sense of direction, he thought the whole world was against him. He took a shift supervisor job at a Fargo restaurant, but that didn’t feel right either. Nothing was going according to plan.
“There was just always something inside of me where I just didn’t feel whole,” Vivier said. “I knew that finishing school was always something I wanted to do.”
About two years later, he decided to give college another try and enrolled at the University of North Dakota as a communication major.
“I just wanted to come to school, go to class, go home, do my homework, go to work and get my degree,” Vivier said.
In class, Vivier opened up, asked more questions and led team projects. He was like a brand-new person. And he credited much of his change in attitude to communication professor Joonghwa Lee.
“Dr. Lee is the best professor I’ve had at UND,” Vivier said. “I connected with him right away, because the story of his life is kind of similar to what I was going through. He made me believe I belong in the classroom.”
Vivier joined the UND Indian Association — known for its popular Time Out Wacipi event — and the American Indian Science & Engineering Society, an organization that promotes American Indians, native Alaskans and Hawaiians, Pacific Islanders, First Nations and other indigenous people in science, technology, engineering and math.
He also worked as a videography intern at UND Marketing & Creative Services and became a founding member of UND’s newest fraternity, Alpha Sigma Phi, where he served as scholarship director and met his best friends.
“I know a lot of people on this campus, and I did not expect that coming into school,” Vivier said. “I have more of a sense of direction now.”
With new energy and confidence, he finally found his place. He was ready to graduate.
“I called my mom and told her I was graduating in May,” Vivier said with tears in his eyes. “Like I’m doing now, she busted out crying, because this is something we’ve worked for my whole life.”
A college degree always had been his goal, and even after feeling he had failed twice, he persevered and came out on top.
Vivier found his passion and forged his own path at UND. He now serves as a role model for his family and community. His older sister even started taking college courses.
“She told me I’m such a huge inspiration to her and her children,” he said. “If I can do it, they can do it, too.”