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On June 21, Dr. Heather McRae and Dr. Nancy Spencer Poitras signed the new five-year agreement during a National Indigenous Peoples Day event at the Telus World of Science Edmonton.  

Northern students to get first university experience in their own high school classrooms

June 22, 2021 | Campus Life
On June 21, MacEwan University and Northland School Division signed a five-year agreement that will provide northern Alberta high school students with access to the university’s dual credit course, INDG 100: Introduction to Indigenous Studies.

Students from the northern Alberta school division will take INDG 100 through remote delivery, receiving high school credit for Indigenous 30 and three university credits for INDG 100. The cost of teacher time is covered by the school board and faculty time is funded by MacEwan, so the dual-credit course is offered to students at no cost.

In a school division that covers 288,000 square kilometres in some of the most remote parts of the province, getting a taste of university before graduating from high school is simply not possible for most students, says Dr. Nancy Spencer Poitras.

“University can seem out of reach if you’ve never had the opportunity to see yourself there,” says the superintendent of schools for Northland School Division. “We think that when students have the chance to be successful, not only earning high school credit but earning three university credits at the same time, that it will be a real confidence booster – and believe that these types of programs will make a difference in our graduation rates.”

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Signing the new dual credit agreement

Dr. Heather McRae, dean of MacEwan's School of Continuing Education (SCE), and Dr. Nancy Spencer Poitras, Northland School Division superintendent of schools, after signing the new agreement on June 21. INDG 100 is offered through SCE, along with the pimâcihisowin Foundation program. 


INDG 100 was first introduced five years ago through a partnership with Edmonton Public Schools’ amiskwaciy Academy. In the course, students analyze works by Indigenous writers from genres including literary, historical, anthropological and sociological texts. Cultural opportunities, including meeting Elders, participating in ceremonies and land-based teaching in their home community, are also built into the course along with an introduction to MacEwan's on-campus community, including the kihew waciston Indigenous Centre.

While COVID-19 interrupted plans to have Northland and amiskwaciy Academy students learn online together this term, in future years students from both school boards will be able to share, discuss and build relationships as they participate together.

“This work is about building bridges and breaking down barriers,” says Fred Hines, who worked with MacEwan on the first INDG 100 project as principal of amiskwaciy Academy, and initiated extending the partnership to Northland School Division. Seeing themselves in a university setting helps students realize that they can use this opportunity to launch their post-secondary education, says Hines. “It gives students an academic leg-up, speaks volumes about the leadership at MacEwan and is a step forward in addressing the outcomes identified in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission report.”

These partnerships are one of the ways that MacEwan is trying to meet the calls to action, and help effect positive change, says Dr. Heather McRae, dean of the School of Continuing Education. “An increase in Indigenous scholarship benefits everyone, and programs like this one –that combine strong, sustainable relationships and community building with investment and commitment – are the best way to expand and grow these types of programs.”

 

Relationships are the way forward

Distinguished Alumnus Lewis Cardinal and Terri Suntjens share insights and examples of what building those relationships can look like.

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INDG 100 is offered through the School of Continuing Education (SCE), along with the pimâcihisowin Foundation program, which helps Indigenous students address gaps between a high school credential and admission requirements for post-secondary diplomas or degree programs. SCE is also preparing to launch INDG 200 in the fall of 2021, eventually adding INDG 300 and 400 to form a Certificate of Achievement in Indigenous Studies.

“The advancement in online learning over the past year has created incredible opportunities, including this new partnership with Northland School Division,” says Dr. Annette Trimbee, president and vice-chancellor of MacEwan. “We look forward to welcoming learners from the northern reaches of our province, and are committed to making sure they are inspired by the power and endless possibilities of a post-secondary education.”

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