Indigenous Directions Leadership Group to help students develop business initiatives
As one of the newest members of Concordia’s Indigenous Directions Leadership Group (IDLG), Ronald Abraira hopes to bring his knowledge of business management and entrepreneurship to help the group develop initiatives that benefit Indigenous students at the John Molson School of Business (JMSB).
“I’d like to help the group reach out to First Nations institutions and create a bridging program for [Indigenous] CEGEP students and adult education learners,” said Abraira, a JMSB lecturer. “We’re hoping to create a program that’s like Dragon’s Den […] We’re calling it INSTEP: Indigenous Student Experience.”
This program will give Indigenous students the chance to create and pitch original business ideas in a style similar to the successful CBC television series. Abraira said INSTEP will give students enrolled in CEGEP or adult education programs the opportunity to gain experience in entrepreneurship and help ease their transition into university. He added that the IDLG hopes to launch the program at some point in the next year, but there is currently no set date.
Abraira is one of four new members to join the IDLG this year. The other new members include Vicky Boldo, an interim elder at Concordia’s Aboriginal Student Resource Centre (ASRC), ASRC coordinator Orenda Boucher-Curotte and Karl Hele, an associate professor of First Peoples studies at Concordia. Reporting to the provost and vice-president, all IDLG members contribute to the group’s goal of helping Concordia respond to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) Principles for Reconciliation and Calls to Action. A total of 94 calls to action were released by the TRC in 2015, following a seven-year federally funded investigation of the Canadian residential school system. The calls to action include ensuring Indigenous people have equitable access to jobs, training and education. Another call to action recommended requiring certain academic programs, including history, media studies and journalism, to feature curriculums focused on Indigenous history and issues.
The IDLG aims to improve the university’s responsiveness to the TRC principles by preparing a list of current Concordia First Nations initiatives, designing recommendations to increase Indigenous participation in the academic community, and offering input on Concordia’s approach to Indigenous recruitment and admissions strategies.
In addition to welcoming new members, the IDLG launched an online hub that aims to provide First Nations Concordia students with access to resources and information.
The hub, which was launched in October, features a diverse range of information relevant to First Nations students and faculty, including upcoming IDLG events as well as a list of courses and faculty members in the First People Studies program. There is also a page highlighting Indigenous research and community projects at Concordia.
Some of the featured projects include Acting Out!, a program that offers theatre workshops to Indigenous youth; Nipivut, a bi-weekly Inuktitut radio show; and Journey Women, an art project exploring the theme of healing from the perspective of First Nations women.
According to Abraira, there is no formal application or election process to join the IDLG. The group welcomes Indigenous community members from a wide range of backgrounds.
“This is a group that’s here for all Indigenous students, Indigenous faculty and those interested in outreach to the Indigenous community,” Abraira said.
Graphic by Alexa Hawksworth