Medicine Hat College’s recent budget has established a new position to encourage and support aboriginal learners, just as Canada begins to come to terms with the findings of the Truth and Reconciliation Committee, and collectively celebrates National Aboriginal Day on Sunday June 21.
Denise Henning, president & CEO, and a woman of proud aboriginal heritage, says the college has a strong role fostering understanding and respect among the diverse cultures that make up Canada.
She says, “Our nation is one in which we celebrate the culture, distinctiveness, and heritage of all people. This is the time for us to ensure that Aboriginal people are respected and understood for their unique contributions to Canada in the past, today, and most importantly in the future.”
She notes that the creation of a First Nations, Metis, Inuit (FNMI) support position at Medicine Hat College will help address the needs of aboriginal learners in the region.
“It is vital that colleges provide services in a manner relevant to the needs and expectations of students. This is true whether we are talking about the technology expectations of today’s youth, or ensuring that we have the cultural sensitivity needed to work with students from across the globe.”
She adds that the new position will be part of the college’s Student Development department, a group dedicated to meeting the needs of individual students. She expects the position to be posted this summer, and the new employee to be at work no later than September. The college will also form an advisory group of elders.
“Our intention is to address the needs of our students,” she adds, “but our move comes just as the nation reflects on the need to consider our past treatment of aboriginal peoples, and the opportunities we have to work constructively in the future.”
Dr. Henning is Cherokee/Choctaw, originating from Creek County in Oklahoma, and willing shares her passion for equity and inclusion in higher education. “I’m always honoured to learn from elders and leaders of our aboriginal peoples, and share with other community groups. There is much we can accomplish together.”
The Medicine Hat College Board of Governors approved the college’s budget on Tuesday, June 16, 2015.
National Aboriginal Day is a day for all Canadians to recognize and celebrate the unique heritage, diverse cultures and outstanding contributions of First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples. The Canadian Constitution recognizes these three groups as Aboriginal peoples.
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