Chancellor’s Chair – Robyn Bourgeois

Robyn Bourgeois head shot

Indigenizing Women’s and Gender Studies: Developing Indigenous-centered Curriculum and Pedagogy at Brock University

Assistant Professor Robyn Bourgeois, Centre for Women’s and Gender Studies, frames her teaching philosophy around the role of Trickster figures in many Indigenous and non-Indigenous cultures.

“In nehiyawiwin (Cree culture), our prominent trickster figure is wîsahkecâhk or ‘the transformer’ because they affect social change through curious and playful engagement in the world around them,” says Robyn. “This is how I understand my role as a teacher: I am a trickster teacher and my ultimate educational goal is to affect transformative social change.”

As the recipient of a 2019 Chancellor’s Chair for Teaching Excellence, Robyn will pursue a three-year project, “Indigenizing Women’s and Gender Studies: Developing Indigenous-centered Curriculum and Pedagogy at Brock University.”

“This project is driven by a single research question: what would an Indigenous-designed course examining Indigenous understandings of gender, sex, and sexuality look like at Brock University?,” she says.

In a first for Brock, Robyn will develop, implement, and evaluate a Women and Gender Studies course organized around Indigenous ways of knowing and doing. Focusing on the interests and needs of Indigenous students and their communities, Robyn will consult widely with Indigenous communities, from Brock, especially students, and urban Niagara, to surrounding areas including Six Nations of the Grand River, and Mississaugas of New Credit.

“While Indigenous feminist and gender studies courses are now commonplace in women’s and gender studies (WGST) departments across Canada, there doesn’t appear to be a single case study examining what decolonizing curriculum development and pedagogical delivery might look like within the field of WGST,” says Robyn.

The research will contribute a unique set of practice-based insights to the broader national and international fields of Women’s and Gender Studies.

The project is clearly aligned with the Brock University Institutional Strategic Plan 2018-2025: Niagara Roots – Global Reach as it addresses two of University’s core commitments — decolonization and experiential education.

Ingrid Makus, Dean, Faculty of Social Sciences, says developing an innovative course that is centred in Indigenous ways of knowing is a significant contribution to Brock’s aim of decolonization.

“Robyn has extensive and broad support from colleagues across the wider community, most significantly across the diverse Indigenous communities both within and without the academic setting,” she says. “Her project will provide Brock with a unique opportunity to take steps toward fulfilling our commitment to the mandate of the Call to Action set out in the report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.”