Oct. 24, 1997

FIRST NATIONS EDUCATOR TAKES ON NEW ROLE

Carolyn Bereznak Kenny wants to raise the profile of higher learning among First Nations people - and share her extensive background in the arts and healing - now that she's 'home.'

As associate professor of First Nations education - a new position in Simon Fraser University's faculty of education - she brings nearly three decades of teaching and research in areas as diverse as multicultural education and music therapy.

"I'm here as a First Nations scholar and educator," says Kenny, who will teach on campus as well as in the faculty's professional development program in outlying areas, including Kamloops and Prince Rupert. Her routine visits to First Nations communities will help determine how institutions of higher learning can better accommodate their needs.

Kenny was raised in the southern U.S. - her mother is from the Choctaw tribe, her father is Ukrainian.. She arrived in Vancouver the early 70s to study and teach at UBC, and co-founded Capilano College's music therapy program.

Kenny left to teach liberal studies at California's Antioch University and returned three years ago, when she helped design Canada's first master's program in music therapy, offered by the Open University. She is a certified music therapist with the American Association for Music Therapy, and an accredited music therapist with the Canadian Association for Music Therapy.

Music therapy is taking off like wildfire around the world, notes the author of three books on the subject, including her latest, Listening, Playing, Creating: essays on the power of sound. "The arts are so important; in a tribal society, the use of music and dance as healing tools has a long history," says Kenny. As a youngster, she sang for cancer patients. Struck by polio at age three, she was exposed to dance, a therapy that would eventually help cure her.

"I've always been naturally attracted to poetry, prose, music and dance," adds Kenny, who hopes to bring her students a sense of the arts through her teaching.

Kenny is also part of a two-year research project, funded by the Status of Women, which will study focus groups of First Nations women from eight communities across the country. Researchers will determine how they can balance their educational needs with their cultural identities.

Kenny says her role has been long anticipated by First Nations groups. "Our own Choctaw legends say that the Pacific Northwest was our first home, and that we migrated south looking for farmland," she explains. "I feel as though I've finally made my way home."

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CONTACT: Carolyn Kenny, 291-3630

Marianne Meadahl, media/pr, 291-4323


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