Vice-provost kicks off new initiatives
Lakehead University vice-provost Aboriginal initiatives Cynthia Wesley-Esquimaux is planning some changes to the university program, including outreach to Dennis Franklin Cromarty High School students.
Lakehead University’s new vice-provost Aboriginal initiatives is looking forward to helping out with Dennis Franklin Cromarty First Nations High School’s upcoming Amazing Race.
“We’re going to be a part of that this year and we’re going to donate some hoodies with Lakehead across the front and some water bottles,” said Cynthia Wesley-Esquimaux, a Chippewa of Georgina Island band member and former University of Toronto assistant professor. “We’re going to be building a new relationship with Dennis Franklin Cromarty High School.”
Wesley-Esquimaux said the DFC initiative is just one of the community outreach activities being planned for the future.
“We’re going to be putting a lot more emphasis on graduate students,” Wesley-Esquimaux said.
“There are a lot of people in Thunder Bay who have their undergraduates but have not been able to get their graduate studies done because there is no part-time graduate studies.”
Wesley-Esquimaux said many undergraduates do not have an opportunity to pursue graduate studies due to full-time employment commitments, so the university is looking at introducing a stackable credentials concept to encourage the undergraduates to continue with their education.
“They can’t quit their jobs because they have families,” Wesley-Esquimaux said. “We’re looking at how do we get those people in here, doing their flexible hours on the weekends or whatever, so they can get their Masters program done.”
Wesley-Esquimaux said the stackable credentials would include a variety of shorter programs, including three-or-four week summer institute programs, that students could accumulate towards a graduate degree.
“We’re looking at (holding) these institutes throughout the year,” Wesley-Esquimaux said. “It will be throughout the year for parents and people in the community who want to take a course that they really don’t have a lot of time for but could dedicate a couple of weeks to in the evenings or on the weekends.”
Wesley-Esquimaux is also looking at the possibility of holding summer institute programs for students who only need a specific credit to qualify for a university program.
“What can we do to create a better conduit of care and support for students to get into these programs,” Wesley-Esquimaux said. “Do they really have to spend one year in an access program if they could have gone directly into a first-year university program.”
Wesley-Esquimaux’s vision is to increase the indigenous student population at Lakehead University.
“Look, this is where we are, this is where we live, this is what we can do to help contribute to the growth of this city and the cultural strength and economic strength of this city,” Wesley-Esquimaux said. “Our people spend a lot of money here, ... something like $300 million per year.”
The Thunder Bay Ventures Poised for Development, Ready for Growth report stated the Aboriginal contribution to Thunder Bay’s economy was estimated to be about $254 million to $383 million in 2012.
The report added that the Aboriginal contribution to Thunder Bay’s economy would likely continue to grow in the future due to a growing Aboriginal population and the growing Aboriginal economy.
Wesley-Esquimaux said the $300 million is spent on medical care, groceries, gifts, meetings, hotels and at Walmart.
“It’s something like seven per cent of the economy of Thunder Bay is in indigenous hands,” Wesley-Esquimaux said. “But it’s not something that has been highlighted, and I think it is something we really need to talk about more.”
Wesley-Esquimaux said the university is currently investing in new computers in the Aboriginal Student Lounge and looking to hire a new Aboriginal transitions advisor to help students with academic pursuits.
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