Community partnerships the foundation of Indigenous Educational Studies program

A group of Indigenous women are building their knowledge and enhancing their abilities to work in Indigenous educational settings through a Brock University program rooted in community.

In partnership with Brock’s Aboriginal Adult Education program offered by the Faculty of Education’s (FOE) Indigenous Educational Studies program, employees of Niwasa Kendaaswin Teg (Niwasa) are engaging in a post-secondary learning environment they may not have had access to otherwise.

The collaborative nature of the program allows FOE faculty to work with Indigenous community partner organizations such as Niwasa to ensure the needs of Indigenous students are being met by centring their learning preferences and embedding cultural protocols into the learning experience.

Employees of Niwasa — a multi-service Indigenous organization providing programs to Indigenous Peoples in Hamilton, Brantford and surrounding areas — engage in educational programming in their daily work, and are now strengthening their skills through Brock’s program.

On Oct. 27, Niwasa student participants visited Brock’s campus for the first time since beginning the partnership earlier this year. Hosted by Indigenous Educational Studies, the group visited Hadiyaˀdagénhahs First Nations, Métis and Inuit Student Centre.

During their visit, Hadiyaˀdagénhahs shared information about the supports available at the University for Indigenous students and prepared a hands-on beading activity followed by a full campus tour and luncheon.

“The opportunity to come learn more about Indigenous education at Brock and the supports available was very valuable for us,” said Shannon Murphy, Manager of Indigenous Professional Learning, Ontario Head Start Association at Niwasa.

Sheila Cote-Meek, Professor and Director, Indigenous Educational Studies, said she wants to foster a strong sense of connection between Indigenous students and the Brock community and “provide program information for Indigenous students who have aspirations to continue their education at Brock.”

The Aboriginal Adult Education program offers flexible pathways for students in their learning, including building on certificates to earn a bachelor’s degree or pursuing the program as a subsequent degree.

Niwasa as an organization is supportive of their employees pursuing higher education by providing time in their workday for their studies. The program has been delivered in a blended format, both online and in the community. This flexibility allows for employees to further their education while maintaining their full-time work.

A key aspect for the students is engaging in their education as a group and having opportunities to meet with Indigenous community mentors and leaders.

Jeannie Martin, Assistant Professor in Indigenous Educational Studies, said that for Indigenous communities, building relationships is paramount.

“This is the foundation of our partnership program with this certificate. It is very important for our students to hear voices of Elders and community mentors, alongside faculty and instructors. We take this approach in our program,” she said.

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