Maskwacis learners to benefit from AU expertise
People living on the four First Nations in Maskwacis will have access to enhanced educational opportunities thanks to a new partnership between Athabasca University (AU) and the Maskwacis Cultural College (MCC).
The focus of the partnership will be collaborating on research and course development, with AU professors Dr. Michael Lithgow and Dr. Vive Kumar working with David Brown, dean of the MCC Indigenous School of Business, to develop network management capacity locally.
AU experts will provide academic services, including collaborative development of course materials and student services such as advising and counselling services, while MCC will provide student services such as registration, enrollment, and course delivery.
MCC President Dr. Claudine Louis noted both organizations are located on Treaty 6 territory in Alberta and said that collaborating on this unique project with AU will enhance local information technology capacity.
“We are pleased to be formalizing a collaborative relationship for developing course curricula and materials with Athabasca University to help the Maskwacis Cultural College in its efforts to make training and education for digital network design, creation, maintenance, and sustainability available for Maskwacis community members,” she said.
Interim AU President Deborah Meyers likewise lauded the partnership as a significant step toward achieving goals in the university’s strategic Imagine plan, including improving learner experience, adapting AU’s offerings, adapting to a changing economy, and moving beyond the norm.
“Athabasca University is committed to partnering with other educational institutions to enhance offerings for learners, and to work with Indigenous groups here in Alberta and around the world,” she said. “I’m tremendously proud of this partnership and look forward to the work we’ll accomplish together.”
The community of Maskwacis comprises four distinct First Nations: Ermineskin Cree Nation, Louis Bull Tribe, Montana First Nation, and Samson Cree Nation.
“We are pleased to be formalizing a collaborative relationship for developing course curricula and materials with Athabasca University to help the Maskwacis Cultural College in its efforts to make training and education for digital network design, creation, maintenance, and sustainability available for Maskwacis community members.”– Maskwacis Cultural College President Dr. Claudine Louis
This partnership builds on work Lithgow, an assistant professor in the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, has already been doing in Maskwacis. He serves as a director with the Mamawapowin Technology Society, a not-for-profit group that provides free high-speed Internet to Samson Cree territory in Maskwacis, with plans to expand that service to all four First Nations.
The working relationship between faculty members at the two organizations has been ongoing for several years in relation to this work, providing community access to broadband connectivity, and formalizing the partnership is a big step toward accomplishing both organizations’ goals.
“We are pleased to be working with Maskwacis Cultural College to collaboratively develop educational resources that service the needs of MCC students,” Lithgow said.
Dr. Vive Kumar, the associate dean of research and innovation in the Faculty of Science and Technology and a professor in the School of Computing and Information Systems, said this partnership is a perfect example of AU’s goal of transforming lives and transforming communities.
“By leveraging advanced technology, AU and MCC have reimagined a way to empower the members of the Maskwacis community to self-education about broadband connectivity and spread that knowledge to other communities,” he said.