January 23, 2019 - 12:30pm
Vancouver Island University continues to be a leader in supporting Indigenous learners and building relationships within community, and was recently recognized for its efforts with the 2018 Perry Shawana Award from the BC Aboriginal Child Care Society (BCACCS).
“VIU was chosen for its long history of working closely with local Aboriginal communities and agencies to provide education and services that enhance the learning experiences and opportunities for Aboriginal students in First Nation Studies, Child and Youth Care, and Early Childhood Education and Care (ECEC) as well as Aboriginal students attending other courses and programs across the campuses,” says Karen Isaac, BCACCS Executive Director.
For the first time in its thirteen-year history, the Perry Shawana Award was given to an institution. VIU shared the award with long-time Aboriginal child advocate Mabel Louie, one of the founding members of the BC Aboriginal Care Society.
The Perry Shawana Award is usually presented to an individual who, through volunteerism, advocacy, policy-making, or research, has contributed to and advanced the notion of the need for safe, nurturing, and high-quality child care and early learning services for BC’s Indigenous children.
“Being the first institution to receive this award acknowledges the amazing work VIU has been doing,” says Sheila Grieve, VIU Chair for Early Childhood Education and Care (ECEC) and Educational Assistant Community Support (EACS). “We don’t just do things that we think will help Indigenous people, we truly try to listen to their voices and work collectively to discover what is needed to move forward in a positive way.”
This proactive approach has led to the creation of positive initiatives at the University – many which are now being mirrored by other institutions across Canada.
In September 2017, VIU celebrated the launch of EleV, the $22.5 million innovative learning partnership with the Mastercard Foundation and Rideau Hall Foundation, which creates opportunities for Indigenous learners.
“We are excited to welcome indigenous students to pursue their educational dreams and aspirations at Vancouver Island University,” says VIU President and Vice-Chancellor Ralph Nilson. “The indigenous communities we serve have helped us understand how we can support success for their students engaging in their educational journey at VIU.”
Two of the many ways VIU offers supports to Indigenous learners is through the Community Cousins mentorship program and by providing a safe space for students at Shq’apthut - A Gathering Place.
The University has ten Elders available throughout the three campuses – Nanaimo, Cowichan and Powell River – who provide insight and wisdom to decision-making and policies.
“Our Elders are an integral part of our VIU community. Their positions are full faculty positions and we deeply value their knowledge and contribution to our institution,” says Grieve.
Grieve emphasizes that these policies and initiatives would not be possible without the collaboration and insight from the Elders and Indigenous community partners who help guide VIU in its efforts to be inclusive and supportive of Indigenous peoples.
Rae-Anne Guenther, Communications Officer, Vancouver Island University
Tags: Teaching and Learning