New positions to ease academic transitions, further develop Indigenous education

This is one in a series of stories highlighting projects supported by Brock’s Academic Initiatives Fund (AIF), which was established by the University in spring 2021. AIF projects will address key priorities outlined in Brock’s Institutional Strategic Plan and position the University to face the challenges of recovery from the pandemic. To read other stories in the AIF series, click here.

Three new positions at Brock are aimed at creating opportunities for students, staff and faculty while also enhancing Indigenous education at the University.

Thanks to support from Brock’s Academic Initiatives Fund (AIF), Brock has created and filled the roles of Academic Transitions Specialist and Indigenous Educational Developer, while an administrator for the new Indigenous Plus program is soon to follow.

Scarlet Stark was hired as the University’s new Academic Transitions Specialist, a position within the Office of the Registrar. She is working on programming that will allow the University to focus on opportunities for students who may not have considered studying at Brock in the past.

Christina Bosilo, Brock’s Director of Admissions, said that in addition to new programming, Stark will be working to further develop existing programs such as Head Start, which allows high-achieving high school students to concurrently take an introductory course at Brock before graduation, and Open Studies, which allows students who had not seen university as an option to explore individual courses of interest. These programs, she said, aim to show that Brock is a place where all students are welcomed and encouraged on their academic journey.

“Access and transition programs are important to both Brock University and the broader community,” Bosilo said. “They contribute to the diversity and richness of our campus community and foster a culture of inclusivity and accessibility.”

Stark said she’s enjoying taking a hands-on approach to program development in areas she has experienced herself.

“As someone who navigated their own access barriers to attaining an undergraduate degree, I have a personal connection to these access projects,” she said. “I know that they will have a profound impact on the students who end up enrolled in these programs, opening doors towards the achievement of academic goals which may have, at one time, seemed unachievable.”

Along with welcoming students who may not have considered attending Brock, the University is also using the AIF funding to bolster Indigenous supports.

As Brock’s new Indigenous Educational Developer, Mac Orlando will focus on teaching innovations and curricular growth.

In the role, Orlando will assist instructors as they further integrate Indigenous teaching and knowledge into their curriculum, and will oversee the development of programs focused on language, medicine and other Indigenous ways of knowing.

Orlando said the chance to work in Brock’s Centre for Pedagogical Innovation (CPI) and with partners from across campus will bring about positive change for the entire Brock community.

“I hope to be able to work with all levels of the University to bring more Indigenous perspectives, knowledge and philosophy into course development and content,” he said. “In doing this, Indigenous and non-Indigenous students alike will benefit from the work we will be doing.”

Madelyn Law, Brock’s Associate Vice-Provost, Teaching and Learning, said Orlando brings a wealth of expertise to educational and curricular development.

“Mac’s expertise will allow CPI to work at a strategic level throughout the University to help programs embed principles of decolonization and reconciliation across the curriculum in all Faculties,” she said.

AIF funding will also allow for the development of an Indigenous Plus program, where, similarly to Brock’s established Law Plus and Med Plus programs, Indigenous students will be able to enrol in a focused cohort to expose them to career opportunities in a variety of fields.

Brock’s acting Vice-Provost of Indigenous Engagement Robyn Bourgeois said it was imperative for the University to continue to enhance its offerings for Indigenous students.

“I always want to improve the Indigenous experience at Brock,” she said. “We are committed to supporting Indigenous students in a meaningful way and giving them hands-on experience — and Indigenous Plus will add to that.

“Anything we can do to help develop skills and help them be successful in the labour market, or whatever they decide they are going to do for a career, is important.”

With the search for someone to develop and oversee Indigenous Plus still ongoing, Bourgeois said she can’t wait to watch the program grow.

“I’m eager to see how we create an innovative experiential program that supports our students and is in line with Indigenous ways of knowing and doing,” she said.

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