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Indigenizing the academy

Memorial launches strategic indigenization planning process

Teaching and Learning

By Jennifer Batten

This winter, Memorial is launching an inclusive and consultative process that will guide the development of the university’s indigenization strategy.

A tent gathering during winter orientation on the St. John's campus.
A tent gathering during winter orientation on the St. John’s campus.
Photo: Submitted

“It is important to note that this process is not starting from scratch,” said Catharyn Andersen, special advisor to the president on Aboriginal Affairs.

“The 2009 Report of the Presidential Task Force on Aboriginal Initiatives has provided strong direction regarding enhancing the recruitment and success of Indigenous students, and aspects of the calls to action of the Truth and Reconciliation Report, and there has been considerable progress toward its objectives.

“Significant work continues to happen on our campuses, some of which emanates from the 2015 report, Celebrating Aboriginal Culture and Cultivating Inclusion at Memorial University,” Ms. Andersen continued.

“However, it is recognized that the path on which we are about to embark is fundamentally different from that which has been taken in the past. Indigenization is a much broader approach, one that encompasses student success and also advances the integration of Indigenous ways of knowing, doing and being into the whole university and acknowledges the value of this integration to the institution.”

Collaborative planning process

The Office of Aboriginal Affairs is leading the project, guided by the President’s Advisory Committee on Aboriginal Affairs and an external strategic planning consultant who will support the university’s efforts to make the planning process as collaborative as possible, recognizing the individual and collective needs of all stakeholders across Memorial’s campuses and Newfoundland and Labrador.

“For the past number of decades, many universities, including Memorial, have, to varying degrees, examined ways to support Indigenous students and incorporate Indigenous content into their academic programming,” said President Gary Kachanoski.

“The release of the Truth and Reconciliation (TRC) report in 2015 and the subsequent adoption of Universities Canada’s Principles on Indigenous Education have compelled us to re-examine our approach to the inclusion of Indigenous Peoples in the academy and to develop a more comprehensive indigenization strategy for Memorial.”

At the core of this initiative is the potential for renewed relationships with Indigenous Peoples and the advancement of reconciliation.  Additionally, Memorial’s capacity to expand upon and advance knowledge about cultures and worldviews will increase, helping to build trust and understanding, as well as the capacity to inspire future students and generations.

“The concept of indigenizing the academy is as diverse as the cultures of Indigenous Peoples themselves.” — Dr. Noreen Golfman

The President’s Advisory Committee on Aboriginal Affairs has established a working group to lead the work on Memorial’s indigenization strategy.

“Though indigenization involves the integration of Indigenous ways of knowing, being and doing, the concept of indigenizing the academy is as diverse as the cultures of Indigenous Peoples themselves,” said Dr. Noreen Golfman, provost and vice-president (academic).

“Given the unique cultures and history of Newfoundland and Labrador and the important role of Memorial University within the province, we consider it necessary to define together what Indigenization means within the provincial and university context.”

Unlike any other planning initiative undertaken before

While strategic planning processes typically have clearly defined goals with identified target dates, this process will not presume to identify those goals and targets until consultation has taken place.

The strategic planning process will be unlike any planning initiative undertaken at Memorial ever before.

The university will engage in consultation and partnership with the Indigenous Peoples of Newfoundland and Labrador, as Memorial operates in many areas across the province, each with its own relationship to Indigenous groups in those areas. This diversity will be reflected in the approach taken.

It is expected that the engagement and planning process and report drafting stages will result in a completed indigenization strategy within 18-24 months.

Updates and requests for engagement and feedback from the university community, including faculty, staff and students, will be shared widely as the planning process progresses.

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