Aboriginal educators gather for student success conference

More than 90 aboriginal education coordinators and students from Ontario, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, the Yukon and across B.C. are gathered at the University of British Columbia’s Okanagan campus from July 13 to 15 for a series of workshops, forums and tours.

The conference is designed to create a sharing of understanding about common issues and best practices.

“We’re really excited about hosting this conference,” said Johanna Sam, aboriginal student advisor at UBC.

“We feel there is a need for aboriginal education coordinators to get together for networking and to build best-practice models.

“Aboriginal people already make great contributions to our post-secondary system, both as students and educators. The conference is designed to allow participants to further explore the opportunities in the post-secondary level.

“Our goal,” Sam siad, “is to strengthen community connections and build support networks for aboriginal students.”

Keynote speaker William Cohen addressed the conference opening proceedings in the University Centre Ballroom.

Cohen is the former director of curriculum and instruction at Nkmaplks Isnma’maya’tn Klsqilxwtet (Okanagan Indian Band Cultural Immersion School), former Chair of UBC Okanagan’s Indigenous Studies Program and an Okanagan band member, parent, educator, artist and author.

Thursday’s conference agenda features workshops on student finances, First Nation education policies, identifying students at risk and unique ways to support students.

Ian Cull, UBC associate vice-president, students, who is Anishinaabe (Ojibway) and a member of the Dokis Indian Band, will present a workshop titled First Generation of University—what can I expect?

On Friday, participants will depart the Okanagan campus for a breakfast and tour at the Westbank First Nation community services building and Senisyusten school and then tour the Nk’mip Desert Cultural Centre in Osoyoos.

The organizing committee includes education coordinators from several Okanagan Nation bands. Conference sponsors include UBC, Okanagan Indian Band, Osoyoos Indian Band, Westbank First Nation and Okanagan College.

More than 400 aboriginal students are enrolled at the UBC Okanagan campus, which has a strong commitment to aboriginal education and engagement, and works to integrate understandings of indigenous cultures and histories into its curriculum and operations.


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