Team Canada goes on line
By Sandra Dimitrakopoulos
The Team Canada trade mission has brought two exchange agreements to Western and recently, an aboriginal university to the world via the computer.
The Saskatchewan Indian Federated College, located in Regina, has become part of a trade agreement with two Mexican Universities in an attempt to launch a university program on indigenous studies over the Internet.
Del Anaquod, director for the Centre for International and Indigenous Studies and Development at the college, said one of the strong points at their institution has always been distance and off-campus programming. "Technology is changing how we do business."
Anaquod said the curriculum will be similar to programs currently being offered in most post-secondary universities but with an aboriginal focus in addition to specialty topics such as an Indian Studies discipline area.
"This was something we needed to do for a long time," said Andrew Reuben, president of Westerns' First Nations Students' Association. "People are now a little more sensitive to aboriginal issues."
Although pleased with the idea, Reuben said he thinks the curriculum offered should be similar to post-secondary education already in place, but from an aboriginal viewpoint using aboriginal expertise in regard to caring for land and the environment.
Allen Pearson, faculty of education dean and co-chair of the Aboriginal Education and Employment Council at Western, said he believes there is potential for the model being proposed but is wary of the idea of offering courses via the Internet in any degree. "A university degree is not just taking courses."
Whether Western could ever entertain a similar proposal is unlikely at this time but Pearson said the university is focusing on working with the native community with regard to fully utilizing resources on hand.
The aboriginal university being proposed was part of the Team Canada effort which also touched Western through two exchange agreements negotiated between two Mexican universities, the Richard Ivey School of Business and geography department.
"These exchange agreements really do make us more visible in Latin America," said university President Paul Davenport, who participated in the mission. "It encourages international mobility at Western."