Indigenous Student Advisory Circles
When Jeri Ducharme started in her position as the Manager of Learning with the Indigenous Engagement and Communications team at the University of Manitoba, she knew that Indigenous students and community members were at the heart of her work.
A member of the Métis Nation in Manitoba with roots embedded in the Red River region, Ducharme’s role is key to UM’s partnership with the Mastercard Foundation EleV Program. This innovative partnership aims to transform Indigenous education through initiatives co-created with Indigenous students, communities, governments and organizations, as well as post-secondary institutions across the province.
Ducharme created Indigenous Student Advisory Circles to ensure First Nations, Métis and Inuit students have a voice in the ongoing evaluation and development of initiatives supported through the EleV Partnership.
“I wanted to ensure we were hearing their stories and experiences so that we could adapt our work to fit their needs as best as we can within our means”, says Ducharme. “The Indigenous Student Advisory Circles were created to provide students with a safe environment to share their stories through activities, discussions and by building relationships with me so I can bring their feedback to our program leads, partners and colleagues and guide our work in a good way.”
UM student Demi Quill is a part of this year’s cohort of advisory students. She says it feels good to know that Indigenous voices are being heard and that she’s not alone.
“The Advisory Circles benefitted me by introducing me to others in the community and helping us raise our voices,” says Quill.
Quill says she learned about intersectionality and how, as an Indigenous person – and especially as an Indigenous woman – she faces more barriers than many of her peers.
“The activities and conversations at the advisory circles opened my eyes on where these barriers are and had me thinking deeply about how we as a society can change and challenge colonial concepts. A small step is still a big step,” says Quill.
Through the Indigenous Student Advisory Circles, students meet other Indigenous students from various backgrounds, programs and experiences and together they explore topics related to identity, culture, post-secondary student experiences, challenges and successes.
“Youth are our future leaders, and we want them to be part of the process of making changes in post-secondary education for generations to come,” says Ducharme.
The Indigenous Student Advisory Circles are a powerful example of the kinds of Indigenous-led, youth-centred initiatives that the EleV Program supports.
“The Indigenous Student Advisory Circles are an innovative, practical approach for Indigenous learners to enter into a two-way conversation with UM in a safe, productive and respectful environment,” says Jennifer Brennan, Director, Canada Programs at the Mastercard Foundation. “Through listening to youth, pathways are being shaped to directly support their success. It’s a tangible demonstration of how we can all get behind Indigenous-led transformation.”
All First Nations, Inuit and Métis students are invited to check out an Indigenous Student Advisory Circle. Ducharme is also starting Indigenous Student Advisory Drop-Ins at Migizii Agamik — Bald Eagle Lodge on the UM Fort Garry campus for students who would like to meet one-on-one.
“We want to hear from Indigenous students who are attending UM or any post-secondary institution in Manitoba. Reach out to me, don’t be shy! Let’s get together, have fun, share a meal, share ideas – and you’ll get a gift card as compensation for your time,” says Ducharme.
Jeri Ducharme can be reached by email at Jerilyn [dot] Ducharme [at] umanitoba [dot] ca.
Find upcoming dates for Indigenous Student Advisory Drop-In sessions and Indigenous Student Advisory Circles on the Indigenous Events Calendar.