Regional partnership enhances business career opportunities for First Nations students

December 7, 2011 - 5:52am

There was added reason to celebrate at the First Nations Christmas feast Dec. 7 at Vancouver Island University.

The lunch-hour event at Shq’apthut: A Gathering Place marks the beginning of a new partnership between Vancouver Island University and Ch’nook Indigenous Business Education.

Ch’nook encourages First Nations students to pursue educational opportunities in business and related fields through scholarships, networking events, high school outreach, advanced management training and other programs.

“We are excited to welcome VIU's Faculty of Management as Ch'nook's Regional Partner,” says Rick Colbourne, Assistant Dean, Indigenous Business Education at UBC’s Sauder School of Business.

“Ch'nook contributes to the sustainable economic development and self-determination of First Nation communities in British Columbia. This will enable us to have a stronger local focus that is closer to the First Nation communities that we serve,” says Colbourne who also serves as director of Ch’nook Indigenous Business Education.

The Ch’nook initiative – aimed at increasing First Nations participation in post-secondary business education – originated a decade ago at the University of British Columbia’s Sauder School of Business. It has evolved with the support of the provincial government, post-secondary business education programs in BC, corporations and other sponsors.

“We’re proud to be partners with Ch’nook and value its contribution to students through scholarships, mentoring and networking,” says VIU President Ralph Nilson. “The business and management skills that First Nations students develop will enrich their lives, open up new opportunities and support them in strengthening their communities.”

VIU, through the Faculty of Management, has been affiliated with Ch’nook for several years but will expand its role as a regional partner, says Neil Macmillan, VIU’s faculty liaison with Ch’nook.

Major gatherings will still be held at UBC’s Longhouse but First Nations students will also have opportunities to attend regional events. The University of Northern BC in Prince George and Thompson Rivers University in Kamloops will also serve as regional partners.

“It will improve the ability of students to make connections with their peers at Ch’nook gatherings, gain access to mentors and hear from inspirational First Nations business leaders,” says Macmillan.

“It’s motivational for students to hear others tell their stories and how they overcame obstacles to reach their goals,” says Macmillan.

VIU’s role as a regional partner with Ch’nook also boosts the potential to increase awareness about business and management career opportunities among First Nations high school students through the Ch’nook Cousins program. Through the Cousins initiative, Ch’nook Scholars visit high schools and share their experiences with First Nations students who may not realize the array of employment possibilities in marketing, accounting, management, finance and other specialties.

Brock Endean, a VIU grad and Ch'nook Scholar in 2009-10, has high praise for the support he received.

"The ability to connect with Aboriginal peers from throughout the province provided me with an amazing network to draw upon for support in my studies and for my future career,” says Endean, who now works at the Ch’nook Network.

“Ch’nook is truly unique for the relationships it builds with students and the various support opportunities that it makes available," he says.

Eight VIU students have been accepted as Ch’nook Scholars for 2012 – the highest number yet, says Sharon Hobenshield, Director of Aboriginal Education at VIU.

Ch’nook Scholars receive $1,000 initially and $1,000 upon completion of their year’s studies. They also receive all-expenses paid attendance at two provincial gatherings, as well as business cards and access to resources.

“I am very much in awe of the students that I have seen participate in the Ch’nook program over the years,” says Hobenshield.

“The increased confidence and skills they gain is apparent. It is very satisfying to know that these students will be future leaders in the community. This is what collaboration and partnership in education should be about.”

This year’s Ch’nook Scholars in the Bachelor of Business Administration program at VIU:

Lyndsey Colleen Bell

Renee Debra Bryant

Nicola Lee-Ann Hall

Savanah Celine Seaton

Ian Blake Simson

Rhea Clair Simpson

Early Timothy Tatoosh

This year’s Ch’nook Scholar in the Master of Business Administration program at VIU:

Elaine Kwandibens

Tags: In the Community

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