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University offers supports for Aboriginal learners.

In 1970, Cariboo College's first classes were held at the Kamloops Indian residential school in Kamloops, B.C.

Now known as Thompson Rivers University (TRU), over the last four decades this educational institution has made the transition from a community college to a full university. TRU claims to be a different kind of university, with one of the largest Aboriginal student populations of any of British Columbia's post-secondary institutions.

Based on traditional Aboriginal pedagogy, students can complete their courses in a learning environment that makes efforts to accommodate Aboriginal students culturally, socially and academically.

The university boasts a coordinator of services for Aboriginal students, an Aboriginal cultural centre and a First Nations Student Association.

In the fall of 2003, The Gathering Place was opened. It is a resource, information and support centre for Aboriginal students and was established to empower the cultural values of the diverse Aboriginal population that attends TRU.

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In July 2006, Nathan Matthew, former Simpcw chief and tribal chief of the Shuswap Nation Tribal Council, was appointed as First Nation advisor to the president of TRU. Previously an educator by profession, Matthew, has helped the university to better respond to the Aboriginal community's needs by functioning as an advisor and liaison between the TRU president and the university's Aboriginal services systems.

Joanne Brown, TRU's Aboriginal student services coordinator, feels things have "come alive" since Matthew took on the advisor role. "He provided the shot we needed to go ahead and get things accomplished," she said.

Support for Aboriginal students is available from a variety of sources. Brown is available to act as liaison between students and their bands and other agencies. She is also there for the students in many other capacities, such as providing assistance with the transition from public school or on-reserve schools to the larger community campus. The First Nations Student Association has an office and a student lounge in the campus activity centre, and plans are in the works for an Elder in residence program that will provide a traditional approach to providing support for Aboriginal students. Students can also take advantage of the open learning option available at the school, which allows students to complete some or all of their desired courses without attending on campus classes.

By Leanne Flett Kruger

Windspeaker Writer

KAMLOOPS, B.C.
COPYRIGHT 2007 Aboriginal Multi-Media Society of Alberta (AMMSA)
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2007 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:education
Author:Kruger, Leanne Flett
Publication:Windspeaker
Date:Jul 1, 2007
Words:386
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