Stage is set for students to build

Stage is set for students to build

Students from Indigenous Institutes in Ontario are helping design the future of community-driven post-secondary education at the Our Community, Our Choice conference in Toronto Feb. 6-7.

“The Indigenous Advanced Education and Skills Council (IAESC) was created to provide quality assurance to this new and important pillar and students are uniquely qualified to guide this work,” said Laurie Robinson, chairwoman and executive director of the Council.

The two-day event organized by IAESC welcomes representatives from among the nine Indigenous Institutes from across the province. The conference begins next Wednesday afternoon at the Westin Prince Hotel with an opening traditional ceremony. The evening features a welcoming dinner with entertainment provided by Adrian Sutherland, a language keeper among the Mushkegowuk Cree of James Bay and Midnight Shine band member.

Adrian Sutherland of Midnight Shine is the featured performer at IAESC's Our Community, Our Choice student conference welcome dinner at the Westin Prince Hotel in Toronto Wednesday evening.
Adrian Sutherland of Midnight Shine is the featured performer at IAESC's Our Community, Our Choice student conference welcome dinner at the Westin Prince Hotel in Toronto Wednesday evening.

The 29th Lieutenant Governor of Ontario Elizabeth Dowdeswell will join the students, facilitators and organizers for dinner as special guest speaker.

Robinson said the insight and perspective of Indigenous Institute students is vital to shaping the standards for the Council’s quality assurance and accreditation process.

“We are at a new time in Indigenous post-secondary education and training in Ontario,” Robinson said, noting it’s been a difficult journey to get to this juncture where Indigenous control of Indigenous education is possible. “We have never been here before and the students themselves are vital to the building process.”

On Thursday, the conference moves to the Evergreen Brickworks beginning with a sunrise ceremony while the day of workshops kicks off with inspirational words from Ashley Callingbull, a Plains Cree role model from Enoch First Nations. Facilitators are Erin Dokis, a post-secondary educator from Dokis First Nation and Perry McLeod Shabogesic, IAESC’s cultural advisor from Nipissing First Nation.

Ashley Callingbull, a Plains Cree role model from Enoch First Nations, will be giving keynote addresses during the Our Community, Our Choice student conference to help guide IAESC in setting standards for Indigenous Institutes. She'll speak Thursday to kick off the morning and afternoon sessions at Evergreen Brickworks.
Ashley Callingbull, a Plains Cree role model from Enoch First Nations, will be giving keynote addresses during the Our Community, Our Choice student conference to help guide IAESC in setting standards for Indigenous Institutes. She'll speak Thursday to kick off the morning and afternoon sessions at Evergreen Brickworks.

The goal of the first-ever gathering of its kind is to learn from the students what an “ideal” post-secondary experience must include. What do they value? What do they need to fulfill their role in making their families and community the best it can possibly be?

Back at the Westin Prince for closing ceremonies and dinner, the event concludes with students sharing their thoughts before entertainment that includes Sagkeeng’s Finest performing their award-winning dance and DJ NDN (Ian Campeau, a co-founder of the Juno Award-winning Tribe Called Red and also from Nipissing First Nation) providing unique musical stylings. Lisa Charleyboy, Tsilhgot’in from Tsi Deldel First Nation and award-winning story teller, is MC for the evening’s entertainment.

The Indigenous Advanced Education and Skills Council, an independent not-for-profit corporation created through provincial legislation, is the accreditation organization for Indigenous Institutes to grant certificates, diplomas and degrees.

Sagkeeng’s Finest are performing at the closing dinner for the Our Community, Our Choice student conference, Thursday.
Sagkeeng’s Finest are performing at the closing dinner for the Our Community, Our Choice student conference, Thursday.

The Council uses a quality assurance process steered by its Quality Assessment Board, which sets standards approved by the Council. Assisting quality assurance in Ontario is the World Indigenous Nations Higher Education Consortium. WINHEC is providing IAESC use of its framework accreditation process and access to its expertise through a memorandum of understanding agreement signed during its annual general meeting held in Norway in August 2018. See the story at our website www.iaesc.ca

Members of IAESC's founding board of directors includes Pamela Toulouse, PhD, the late Delbert Horton and Bob Watts with Laurie Robinson the chair and executive director. The Council's Quality Assessment Board members include Kali Storm, Laura Horton and T'hohahoken Michael Doxtator, PhD.

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