As the weeks draw closer to the first day of class at universities and colleges across the country, we look at services provided to Aboriginal students. I had the chance to connect with Sarah Noel, the communication officer/recruitment and communications for the University of Sudbury, and she shared information on the assistance provided by their institution.
“The are many services the University of Sudbury provides Aboriginal students offering cultural, academic and individual support. Such services include the department of Indigenous Studies; a lounge for Indigenous students; access to Traditional Resource People; and a student group called Indigenous Student Circle, to name a few,” Noel said.
Noel said as members of the Laurentian Federation, students can access services offered by the Indigenous Student Affairs office as well as the Indigenous Sharing and Learning Center located at Laurentian University. Programs and courses are also offered by the University of Sudbury directly onsite or via video-conferencing in the communities of the James Bay Coast, which include Moose Factory, Attawapiskat, Fort Albany and Kashechewan.
“The University of Sudbury is dedicated to making education financially accessible by providing numerous scholarships, bursaries and awards to their students. Among the financial aid available is bursaries, scholarships and awards specifically for Indigenous students,” said Noel.
The unveiling of the University of Sudbury’s arbor, Nishnaabe-gkendaaswin Teg (where Indigenous Knowledge is), will take place on Thursday, September 14, which is soon after classes resume. Noel said Nishnaabe-gkendaaswin Teg will be a place to sit with your ancestors, seek the wisdom of elders, receive teachings and explore your place within creation and share in peace, understanding and thoughtful contemplation. The arbor will be available for class time, workshops, ceremonies, teachings and other gatherings.
I asked Noel if she thought these kind of services for Aboriginal students helped them with their studies in terms of giving a sense of belonging, to inspiring them to achieve their program goals.
“Yes, these kinds of services definitely help in giving Indigenous students a sense of belonging. The University of Sudbury provides a safe, inclusive, supportive and nurturing academic environment that allows students to reach their goals,” said Noel.
Noel added she definitely feels Aboriginal Centres are a welcoming place that provides guidance and supports for student success on both a personal and academic level.
“Providing an atmosphere of identity, a place of belonging and being connected with one another eases the transition between home, community and school, and significantly enhances Indigenous culture and way-of-life,” said Noel.
As a former student of Grant MacEwan University in Edmonton, I would most definitely agree with Noel that Aboriginal Centres gives students a sense of belonging and encouragement. When I attended Grant MacEwan from 1999 to 2002, I completed the Native Communications Program, aka, NCP, and the Journalism Diploma Program.
Relying on the Aboriginal Centre as a place to go and study, chat with other students and counsellors and experience positive vibes, and sometimes gain inspiration, I remember on many occasions chatting with then Grant MacEwan University Aboriginal Centre counsellor Jane Woodward, who was a great person to speak with and always had encouraging words, making it easier to finish that next assignment.
I have spoken with many former students and they all agree post-secondary institutions need both Aboriginal Centres and their services. In our next issue we’ll look at new programs that are in development, like Alberta announcing a $665,000 grant to train Indigenous language teachers.
For more information visit www.usudbury.ca