Symposium begins with celebration of achievement in Aboriginal engagement

The first part of a two-part symposium that will ultimately result in a refreshed Aboriginal foundational document will involve a celebration of the university’s achievements in Aboriginal engagement over the past few years.

By Kris Foster

Called Taking Stock, the March 15 event will include a poster expo that highlights various programs and services that have built Aboriginal engagement across campus and beyond, explained Kyla Shea, strategic planning and projects officer in Institutional Planning and Assessment. "The posters will cover a number of years but we're really trying to focus on what's happening now."

Shea explained that the university's Forging New Relationships  foundational document on Aboriginal initiatives, published in 2003, outlines specific areas of development and opportunity for the university to build on its strengths and take on new initiatives. These include student affairs, academic programs, research programs, cultural programs and community outreach.

"The university has been active in all of these areas," said Shea, "but with perhaps particular emphasis in a couple— academic programs and students programs. The poster expo will bring to light the initiatives that have been happening in the other areas as well."

Organizing the expo involved putting out a call for posters. About 40 are expected for various research programs, and another 35-40 that will focus on academic and student programming, she said. The Taking Stock symposium will also involve the launch of a community engagement map that shows both on- and off-campus and where the university's current Aboriginal student population is coming from. There will also be an all-inclusive feast and round dance. The day starts at 9 am in the Education Gym; President Ilene Busch-Vishniac will speak at 9:30 am.

The second part of the symposium will be a one-day, invitation-only discussion called Moving Forward involving university officials, international indigenous scholars and leaders from First Nations and Métis communities. Shea described the June 12 event as a visioning exercise. "It's a completely new world from when we wrote the original foundational document in 2003. We're seeing a focus on Aboriginal education in multiple provinces and there are many more universities stepping into this type of programming. In the June session, we'll be looking at what's working at the University of Saskatchewan and what we can do going forward."

The goal, she said, is to rework the foundational document to provide a more focused and refined vision for Aboriginal engagement and success.