Thompson Rivers University

Knowledge Makers program has impressive impact

March 1, 2017

The Knowledge Makers program, now in its second year, is designed to encourage Indigenous students to participate in research.

When the Knowledge Makers program launched in 2016, organizers hoped the program would inspire more Indigenous students to participate in research.

Now in its second year, the program has been more successful than organizers anticipated. Out of the 17 students in the inaugural cohort, four have been accepted into graduate school, one has launched a business, one completed an international internship, and two have been accepted to law school. Several of the returning students have applied for, or expressed interest in, the Undergraduate Research Experience Awards.

“We went into this wanting to develop more undergraduate Indigenous researchers, but we discovered so much more,” said organizer Sereana Naepi, a TRU research fellow and Indigenous doctoral student working with Professor Airini, Dean of the Faculty of Education and Social Work.

During Reading Week (Feb. 20-24), 13 new Knowledge Makers were joined by Indigenous scholars and mentors, as well as elders. The addition of alumni created a richness to the program, and one Naepi says will only grow.

“It’s so wonderful to know that the program meant so much to our students that they return, and we hope that each year they’ll come back and share with us.”

This year, students developed e-portfolios — personal websites detailing their learning journeys — allowing them space to discuss their own research interests and inspiration. Students also spent much of the two-days working toward a research publication, with each student establishing his or her own unique research project.

“Our Knowledge Makers realize that they can bring themselves, and their world and experiences, into their academic work. When they bring themselves in, they feel welcomed and will stay. It’s not just a learning space, it’s a space where students can connect and come together,” said Naepi.

Hannah Fregin, a third-year Tourism Management student, had planned to spend her Reading Week visiting family in Vancouver, but was glad she opted to stay and experience Knowledge Makers.

“I grew up on Haida Gwaii. I know that in Kamloops I’m in an Indigenous community, but I didn’t know how to place myself in it. It was so nice to find people with the same values and passions. We’re all here trying to accomplish the same thing for our community and our lands.

“It’s so nice to walk in with this level of understanding with people who respect the same things as I do,” she said.

Fregin’s passion is community wellness and her goal is to discover a way to bring opportunities to her community through tourism.

“My community is struggling with unemployment, and I really want to bring in tourism opportunities that will be respectful of the land and the culture and give people opportunities, while also giving them another place to practice culture.”

Mariana Troke, a third-year Nursing student said her takeaway from the week was in learning how Indigenous research methodologies differ from Western research methodologies.

“This is probably the first time I’ve heard voices speaking within a context I’m familiar with, and with the values I grew up with,” she said.

Dolan Paul, a fourth-year Computer Science student, said that the mentorship provided throughout the two-day workshop will help his as he moves forward in his field.

“There’s a lot involved when you’re doing research and knowledge gathering within Aboriginal communities. It’s a long process, and there can be an aversion — or reluctance — to technology, as well as a lack of infrastructure,” he said, adding that he feels more supported and prepared to embark on his career path.

The two-day workshop culminates with a celebration and dinner on March 29, during Research Week. At this dinner, each student will be joined by his or her family, and will be presented with a copy of the publication.

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