Students In VIU’S First Nations Studies Benefit From New Internships

April 10, 2014 - 7:15am

Students in Vancouver Island University’s (VIU) First Nations Studies program are completing the last few weeks of a new internship program that will help them deepen connections in the community and explore career options.

Five community organizations in the region have opened their doors to 10 First Nations Studies students keen to gain work experience and learn on the job, said professor Melody Martin, who has been working in the First Nations Studies department with professor Laurie Meijer Drees to support the students in their internship experiences since December.

“Our First Nations Studies students took the initiative to ask for an internship program and suggest partners,” says Meijer Drees. “They wanted culturally responsive professional development opportunities, and now they’ve been working one to two days a week for the entire spring semester.”

Community partners include School District 68, Inter Tribal Health Authority, Kw’umut Lelum Recreational Therapy, Hul’qumi’num Treaty Group, and Cowichan Tribes Native Plant and Salmon Enhancement Facility.

Students Zak Myers, Gina Mowatt and Wally Gait have been working at North Oyster School, and have both found the internship experience very rewarding.

Myers, who graduated with his BA in First Nations Studies in January, got involved in the internship program to gain experience working in education.

“It’s taken me the journey through my undergraduate degree to realize that I want to be a teacher,” says Myers, who will begin full time studies toward his Bachelor of Education in September. “It wasn’t until my third year that I started to realize everything is interconnected –relationships, community development and being a role model to kids.”

Mowatt says the internship experience was very relevant to her plans to pursue post-graduate Indigenous studies, as she and Myers have been directly involved in classroom sessions that focus on teaching Indigenous knowledge.

“It’s been a big learning curve for me,” she says. “It’s a really good experience to see how things work and implement our more modern ways of teaching Indigenous knowledge in an Indigenous context.”

At North Oyster School, Myers and Mowatt have been working with the school’s 90 students in Kindergarten through Grade 7, and with teachers and Elders from the community.

Laurie Mathieson, a teacher at North Oyster School who spearheaded the partnership with VIU’s First Nations Studies program, said the internship program is beneficial to everyone involved – students, teachers, the VIU interns, and the community.

“I got in touch with the First Nations Studies program about internships because we wanted to focus on how we can improve the feeling around Aboriginal culture in our school, and make it more prevalent and more celebrated,” Mathieson says.

With approximately one-third of North Oyster’s students self-identified as Aboriginal, she adds, another benefit has been observing Aboriginal students’ pride and celebration of culture.

“With quite a high Aboriginal population at our school, it’s nice for them to be taught by young Aboriginal leaders who are in university,” Mathieson says.



Shari Bishop Bowes, Communications Officer, Vancouver Island University

P:250.740.6443 C: 250.618.1535 E: T: @viunews

Tags: Student Success