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Northern community sees first group of students graduate with new Liberal Arts Certificate

Jan 7, 2020

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On December 17, 2019 at a graduation ceremony in the northern village of Pinehouse, SK, the first cohort of 19 Indigenous students celebrated the successful completion of the Liberal Arts Certificate program. The program is delivered by Gabriel Dumont Institute (GDI) in partnership with the University of Regina.


The partnership between GDI and the U of R was first established 40 years ago. The partnership recognizes the sovereignty of Indigenous peoples and enables GDI to deliver University of Regina programs to Métis students. First Nations and Inuit students also attend GDI. With a main goal of providing Métis people with access to post-secondary education, GDI is owned by the Métis people of Saskatchewan and one of its key goals is to help expand educational opportunities for the Métis.


“The U of R has a strong goal of working with Indigenous communities in Saskatchewan, including Métis and other communities in northern Saskatchewan,” states Professor Harvey King, Director of the Centre for Continuing Education at the University of Regina. “In Fall 2018, Dr. Vianne Timmons, U of R President and Vice-Chancellor, and others (myself included) visited Pinehouse as part of our northern community tour. There was shared excitement for this program to help their students and communities grow and achieve development and success. We are honoured to work with GDI to help the Pinehouse community and students to achieve their goals.”


An enhanced affiliation agreement renewed in October 2019, has led to a number of partnerships, including GDI and the U of R working together to offer the Liberal Arts Certificate program offered in Pinehouse and La Ronge.


“In the end, it becomes more than just GDI or U of R, because there is community ownership and buy in,” explains GDI Research Coordinator James Oloo. “GDI delivers the program; grads earn a U of R credential. It is a win-win situation for GDI, U of R, and Indigenous students.”


The Liberal Arts Certificate is a cohort model that is delivered via face-to-face instruction in the community. As such, the program is designed to be portable with the ability to relocate as needed and demand requires. The program is offered over a 12-month period and the course load is modified and reduced to ensure success. Courses offered: ACAD 100; ENGL 100; INDG 100; THEA 100; BIOL 140; PHIL 100; ANTH 100; CREE 100; INDG 201; and, SOC 100.


“In 2014, I was accepted to SUNTEP in Prince Albert. My kids were very small and it was my first time leaving the community. I did not succeed,” reflects graduate Jolene Tinker. “So when they offered the Liberal Arts Certificate program right here in Pinehouse, I jumped at the opportunity. I got to stay in my community, around my kids and my supports – this increases the likelihood of success.”


Tinker and her mother and fellow graduate Sherry Lariviere, both described their experiences as challenging and hard work. They were both grateful for the instructors who provided thoughtful and timely support, and who were approachable and helpful, always taking the time to answer questions.


The daughter-mother duo were able to support each other – ensuring neither gave up – and where one struggled, the other offered help within subject areas in which they excelled.


“I loved going to school and being challenged. It was awesome and I would do it again,” exclaims Lariviere. “Thank you to the GDI for this opportunity and for bringing the U of R to our small community – this program opens doors to various fields we might be interested in.”


Tinker and Lariviere hope to see this type of program offered in other northern communities, where it will open doors to education for Indigenous students previously thought shut.


Other programs delivered by GDI in partnership with the U of R include the Saskatchewan Urban Native Teacher Education Program (SUNTEP) in Regina, the Northern Saskatchewan Indigenous Teacher Education Program (NSITEP) in La Ronge, as well as Community-based Master of Education program and Justice Studies program in Prince Albert.


This article first appeared on the University of Regina website. It is reprinted here with permission.

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