Ryerson is launching a program to incorporate indigenous content into the curriculum to appeal to the Aboriginal community.
“(The program) is really designed for the Aboriginal community to be successful,” says Diane Simone, the learning support facilitator at Ryerson Aboriginal Student Services (RASS), and the program’s instructor.
“(At Ryerson), we’re working very diligently to create a curriculum that does have that Indigenous perspective and that will make people from the Aboriginal community feel safe and welcome,” Simone said.
The Aboriginal Foundations Program will be nine weeks long, offered one night per week for three hours, and will focus on essential skills, such as essay writing and critical thinking. It will admit 15 students from the Aboriginal community.
According to a StatsCan survey in 2014, only 9.8 per cent of Indigenous peoples in Canada have a University degree, in comparison to 26.5 per cent of the rest of the population.
Applicants don’t need to be enrolled in university to apply. The program is intended for people who just want to learn critical writing skills, but also for Aboriginal professionals looking to do some development at the university level, or students who are already enrolled in university and may be having some difficulties with those skills.
According to Amanda Thompson, the Aboriginal academic support adviser at RASS, many people outside the aboriginal community have also expressed interest in the program.
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“I get requests from Aboriginal community members or students who are looking to access university and from people in other programs who are looking to learn about Aboriginal peoples,” says Thompson.
The application process includes an interview and a written assessment that will look at the student’s standing and determine if they are a good fit for the program.
Ryerson is also continuing to offer the Aboriginal knowledges and experiences certificate program. It launched in September 2014 and requires students to complete six credits to get their certificate. This program is separate from the Foundations course, and is more focused on Aboriginal culture, rather than writing skills.
Thompson says Indigenous peoples “don’t see themselves reflected often in content” due to the lack of representation of their people in universities. She pointed to the low number of Aboriginal PhDs and faculty members at Ryerson.
“Programs that feature Aboriginal content become really important for our students to see themselves reflected,” says Thompson.
“So stories of their success can be applied to their work as well as their communities.”