Special adviser for aboriginal affairs appointed
Dr. Maura Hanrahan has been appointed Memorial University's first special adviser for aboriginal affairs.
In this role, Dr. Hanrahan will be working closely with faculty, aboriginal groups, and senior administration on matters relating to a university-wide cultural change toward aboriginal students.
The need for this new position was identified as a result of the Presidential Task Force on Aboriginal Initiatives.
Initiated in 2009, the task force was chaired by Dr. Evan Simpson, vice president (academic) pro tempore, and included several representatives from Newfoundland and Labrador's aboriginal organizations. The task force outlined 22 recommendations designed to enhance the success of aboriginal students of all ages, which will be implemented gradually over the next two years.
"Dr. Hanrahan's appointment to the new position of special adviser for aboriginal affairs signifies Memorial's renewed commitment to aboriginal students and their communities," said Dr. Simpson. "Maura brings a unique combination of energy and experience to her role and I am convinced this is the dawning of a new era in higher education for aboriginal people of Newfoundland and Labrador."
Prior to this appointment, Dr. Hanrahan worked as a consultant for aboriginal associations across Canada on issues such as land claims, education and health policy. For the past decade, she has been an adjunct professor in the Faculty of Medicine's Division of Community Health and Humanities.
She is a graduate of Memorial University's Faculty of Arts, received her MA from Carleton University in sociology and anthropology and was a Rothermere Fellow at the London School of Economics where she completed her PhD.
Dr. Hanrahan is the author of 12 articles in peer-reviewed journals and 11 books in several genres. She is also the current vice-president of the St. John's Native Friendship Centre and is of Mi'kmaq ancestry on her father's side, belonging to the Sple'tk First Nation Band.
Dr. Hanrahan stresses the need for aboriginal students and their communities to feel welcome at the university.
"We need to make aboriginal people aware that we're moving in this new direction and that they are integral to this movement. Part of our future plans include establishing a bachelor of aboriginal studies so aboriginal students will be able to see themselves and their culture reflected in the university," she said. "We also hope to hire a grant facilitation officer that will smooth the path for researchers in aboriginal work."
Dr. Hanrahan's first priority is to learn the strengths of the university and identify areas that can be built on.
"We have people doing wonderful academic work – Lisa Rankin's work in Cartwright comes to mind – and Sheila Freake (the manager of the Aboriginal Resource Office) is doing a great job in welcoming students. From a policy and institutional perspective, I want to support Lisa and Sheila and all the other people who are engaged in this area," she said.
Dr. Hanrahan will visit Memorial University's Grenfell Campus in September and plans to meet with representatives from the Federation of Newfoundland Indians, who have their headquarters in Corner Brook. Visits to the Nunatsiavut Government, NunatuKavut and the Innu Nation in Labrador, and Miawpukek First Nation (Conne River) are also being planned.
The full report of the Presidential Task Force on Aboriginal Initiatives is available on the Memorial University website at www.mun.ca/president/Aboriginal_Task_Force_Report.pdf.