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Task force delivers

Dr. Chris Loomis, left, received the report on aboriginal initiatives from Task Force Chair Dr. Evan Simpson.

By David Sorensen

A task force looking at ways of enhancing the recruitment and success of aboriginal students has submitted a comprehensive report to the university president.

Chaired by former Vice-president (Academic) Dr. Evan Simpson, the task force has produced a report with 22 recommendations that fall into four categories – encouraging completion of high school by aboriginal people; success at university through on-campus support; appropriate educational programming; and co-ordination of Memorial’s existing aboriginal expertise.

Dr. Simpson said of all the thematic elements of the report, the call for co-ordination is critical.

“As the Aboriginal Resource Inventory indicates, many relevant activities already occur at Memorial, but they do not connect well and therefore do not add up to much,” he said. “The task force has agreed to remain in existence to help serve this function in the short term, but we need a permanent co-ordinating structure to create and sustain the essential network within and beyond the university.”

In the executive summary, the task force noted that the report’s “serious goals make serious demands upon an organization’s human and financial assets” but that there were several initiatives that require nothing more than revised practices.

Dr. Simpson said the task force was created in the summer of 2008. The committee conducted research on initiatives elsewhere and on aboriginal education generally, consulted widely within the province and throughout Canada, prepared an Aboriginal Resource Inventory for Memorial, and convened several times for discussion and deliberation.

“Hence, the report was in the making for about 15 busy months, during which we attempted to define a realistic set of initiatives for the university.”

The task force was comprised of university administrators and representatives of Newfoundland and Labrador’s aboriginal communities. Dr. Simpson said the report is an important step in serving these communities and attracting aboriginal students to the university.

“There is a unanimous sense in the committee that the university has an historic opportunity to enter partnerships with a dynamic and growing part of the provincial population,” said Dr. Simpson. “Unless Memorial seizes it the aboriginal communities will look elsewhere for their needs in education and research, and Memorial will find it much more difficult to meet the objectives of its Strategic Plan.”

Dr. Simpson presented the report to Dr. Chris Loomis, president pro tempore, before Christmas.

“We have begun a consultation process across the university community to examine how we could incorporate the recommendations of the task force into our operations,” said Dr. Loomis. “Memorial has always valued its relationships with our community partners. It is essential that we ensure full opportunity for all people in this province. The aboriginal community should not be an exception to that principle.” The report is online at

Social Work program set for Labrador

A new agreement between the Nunatsiavut Government and Memorial University will see a number of Inuit students completing a bachelor’s of social work degree in Happy Valley-Goose Bay.

The joint efforts of the Nunatsiavut Government and Memorial’s School of Social Work resulted in the partnership that will deliver the pre-social work program to 33 individuals. Eventually, 20 successful applicants will be admitted to the social work program in the fall of 2010. The program will provide a generalist, undergraduate social work education that integrates aboriginal content. The two parties reached an agreement in October 2009. The program will be offered completely in Labrador, allowing students to remain at home while they study.

“There is a tremendous need throughout Nunatsiavut and, indeed, all of Labrador, for social workers and the delivery of services,” said Nunatsiavut’s Minister of Education and Economic Development Darryl Shiwak. “The Nunatsiavut Government is committed to building healthier communities through programs and services aimed at addressing the day-to-day challenges faced by those in need."

“We are always looking for ways to involve Memorial productively in the community and this is a particularly good example of how collaborative arrangements lead to new opportunities,” said Dr. Chris Loomis, president pro tempore. “In this case, we’ll see a cohort of aboriginal students not only study near their homes, but also receive a program that is sensitive to their culture.”
The program reflects Inuit culture and values, and offers non-social work courses that provide the maximum amount of aboriginal content. The program is designed to prepare graduates to practice in both Inuit and non-Inuit settings. Memorial professors will travel to Happy Valley-Goose Bay in order to allow Inuit students to remain and study in Labrador. Various courses will also be delivered by qualified professionals from the Happy Valley-Goose Bay area.
“We have long known that some communities require alternatives to the traditional models for learning, and this is the case here,” said Dr. Reeta Tremblay, vice-president (academic) pro tempore. “We undertook a careful discussion with the Nunatsiavut Government and came up with a plan that we feel addresses the needs of students in Labrador and preserves the academic integrity of our social work program. I see this (partnership) as a model for future arrangements with other communities that might need them.”

“The school benefits from this collaboration through the sharing knowledge about Inuit culture which can be incorporated into the social work program,” said Ellen Oliver, acting director of the school.

While participating students will relocate to Happy Valley-Goose Bay in order to complete their coursework, they will return to Labrador Inuit communities to be employed in the social work field upon their graduation from the program.