University of Guelph to increase aboriginal faculty, scholarships in response to TRC

An Ontario university has responded to recommendations made in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission with its plan to hire five aboriginal professors and boost graduate scholarships to students who identify as aboriginal.

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Charlotte Yates, the provost at the University of Guelph, says the initiative was one of her first priorities after starting at the school last August.

Yates says the hiring and the scholarships won't be limited to any faculty or discipline.

She says the initiative is designed to fill gaps at the professorial level as well as develop a pipeline of researchers who can eventually become fill those roles.

Yates says there is a moral responsibility for universities to respond to the commission's report.

She hopes to have the faculty positions and scholarships filled within six to 18 months.

The idea was one of her first when she moved to the school from McMaster University last summer.

"All groups need to see themselves reflected in educational institutions," she said.

"To go into a lecture and never see yourself reflected is difficult. It's kind of like when I was an undergraduate and there was only one female faculty member. Was that ever a possibility for me? At that time, it wasn't quite clear."

In addition to the five tenure-track faculty positions, she said there will be five graduate scholarships available to aboriginal students in any discipline, two undergraduate research awards, one post-doctoral fellowship and a year-long artist in residence.

Yates said the initiative is a direct response to last summer's Truth and Reconciliation Commission that called on all levels of government to change policies to repair problems caused by residential schools.

The report also recommended that students be taught about the history and current plight of First Nations, Metis and Inuit.

The school is the latest to respond to the commission's findings.

Trent University announced in March that it will offer a new program next fall designed to boost aboriginal numbers among teachers.

The university said it will offer an indigenous bachelor of education degree program with the hopes of having 15 students, all who self-identify as aboriginal, start the first year of the program in September.



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