Creating opportunities for Indigenous learners
Athabasca University’s (AU) Faculty of Business recently welcomed some lifelong learners back to the classroom. These learners have all been students at some point in their lives but have not yet been able to fulfil their goals of becoming undergraduate students.
That is about to change.
With the signing of a new partnership between the Aboriginal Financial Officers Association of Alberta (AFOA) and Athabasca University’s Faculty of Business, these students will now be better equipped to make their dreams of becoming Bachelor of Commerce undergraduates—a reality.
This innovative partnership will enable Indigenous learners to access courses online via digital course delivery as well as receiving some additional face-to-face time with AU professors and AFOA mentorship support.
This hybrid method of delivery will help to address the concerns around systemic barriers faced by Indigenous learners while enabling the use of supports known to assist these learners to help meet the rigorous academic requirements of a degree program.
Learners will move through AU business courses as a cohort, and will be supported in ways that consider and incorporate their unique needs and culture.
Deborah Hurst, Dean at the Faculty of Business was thrilled to speak about this collaboration,
“This partnership between AFOA and AU is all about reducing barriers to entry, to enabling learners to reach their fullest potentials, and perhaps to recovering those dreams of furthering education that some may have felt were lost to them. What makes this partnership unique is that we can deliver a blended model of learning to support the huge role that culture plays in the lives of these Indigenous learners while providing a flexible online learning environment that fits seamlessly into their existing lives.”
Gerald Whitford, President, AFOA Alberta Board of Directors went on to say how important it is to gain an education, “the key to making it in this world today is education. There was a time when First Nations people could get by on just knowing how to hunt, and gather, and trap. But the time has come where we have to accept that times are changing. I recently heard someone say that education is the new buffalo for First Nations people, meaning it is part of the answer to what ails us.”
This program has been designed from the perspective of both satisfying challenges and opportunities. It has been planned to flexibly and seamlessly fit into the lives of these busy working professionals both at work and at home. As well, “there are additional supports in place with a real focus on community building and addressing challenges specific to First Nations and Indigenous peoples” said Robert Andrews, Executive Director, AFOA Alberta.
We look forward to the bright futures of these learners. Welcome to AU!
Significance of the tobacco pouch and sweetgrass given as gifts
The sweetgrass is a sacred plant for First Nations people. The sweetgrass grows in North America, it is picked, braided, dried, and burned. When it is burned, it produces smoke and not a flame. The smoke that it produces is like an incense that is used to “smudge”, a term used by First Nations people. First Nations people smudge to purify sacred ceremonies such as the annual Sun Dances and in an individual’s daily prayers for healing, peace, and spirituality.
The colorful symbol on the white leather tobacco pouch represent the four directions of life, or the circle of life. The yellow color represents the east and a persons emotion-heart the red color represents the south and a persons spirit-soul, the black represents the west and a persons physical-body and the white color represents north and a persons intellect-mind.
– Description of significance provided by Randa Wright, AFOA Alberta