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April 5, 2007

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By Diane Luckow

When Kelvin Redvers, a member of the Métis nation, arrived at the Burnaby campus last year from Hay River, Northwest Territories, he faced a big adjustment. Not only because he came from such a different environment, but because he is one of just 244 declared First Nations students at SFU. "There wasn't a clear First Nations presence on campus," notes Redvers, now a second-year film student.

That's going to change over the next few years, however, as SFU implements a five-year, university-wide strategic plan that will transform SFU's approach to First Nations academic programming, community engagement, student support and research.

Spearheaded by John Waterhouse, vice-president academic, and Lisa Sterling, special advisor and director of aboriginal affairs, the plan calls for a doubling of the number of First Nations students, for First Nations faculty members in every faculty, and the establishment of an office of First Nations that will act as a visible and supportive unit for uniting First Nations' interests on campus.

There is, says Waterhouse, "a moral and political imperative for an institution such as SFU to provide as much service as it can to First Nations students."

What's more, he says, improving First Nations services is also a political reality because First Nations are the most rapidly growing population in Canada.

"There is no doubt that this is an important issue for the university to attend to," he says.

Redvers agrees. "For me," he says, "it's an issue of visibility and presence." He'd like to see a larger, more visible space for First Nations on campus and hopes the empty position of First Nations Student Centre director will soon be filled.

"If these ideas are followed through," he says, "I think it will do a lot for the campus."

 

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