Aspiring community changemaker values experiential learning in REM program
By Diane Luckow
A member of the Cayuga Nation from Six Nations of the Grand River in Ontario, Jonathan Boron grew up with with first-hand knowledge of the struggle Indigenous communities experience in regaining rights to their territories. That’s why he wanted to study environmental law.
Instead, however, the new alumnus graduated last June with a master of resource management from SFU’s Faculty of Environment and won a dean’s graduate scholarship worth $84,000 to continue with a PhD over four years.
“I want to focus my research on helping to solve resource development issues,” says Boron, who abandoned environmental law to develop more community-engaged career options through SFU’s School of Resource and Environmental Management (REM).
For his master’s project he worked with the Skeetchestn Indian Band near Kamloops to discover how resource development royalties flow back into Indigenous and rural communities. He found this experiential learning invaluable.
“I wasn’t just learning stuff in a book,” he says. “When I held my first community meeting with the Skeetchestn leadership I realized they didn’t have much interest in what I was researching. That was my error—not engaging with them early on to discover what they were interested in.”
For his PhD, he hopes to work alongside a First Nation in northern B.C. whose interests align with his ongoing research into self-governance, self-determination and community consent in Indigenous and rural communities.
“I like the idea that the research I’m doing will result in positive change,” he says. “It’s work the community wants done, and I’m able to do some of the heavy lifting for them.
“It’s a really interesting correlation between research and community—the research is not just sitting on a bookshelf. You can see it in action.”
He sees his PhD program as the natural stepping stone to a career as a consultant to First Nations communities, whether in community planning or negotiating resource development projects.
“I’m optimistic that the PhD will open doors,” he says. “While doing my thesis research I’ll have a real opportunity to network with communities in B.C. and really understand what issues they’re facing and hopefully help provide some solutions.”