Thompson Rivers University

From orientation to graduation: Cplul’kw’ten and the circle of care

July 24, 2018

"I’ve learned from some great leaders in my life that taught me about diplomacy and authenticity,” Melody said.

After filling in as the supervisor for Indigenous Student Development, Melody Markle will now continue in the position permanently. Though former supervisor Joanne Brown’s presence will be missed, Melody is looking forward to moving onward with the Cplul’kw’ten team in support of student success.

Once an aboriginal student recruiter and enrolment representative at TRU, Markle had settled into a learning strategist, Indigenous transitions role when this opportunity arose.

“Joanne encouraged me to apply, which made it easy to explore my options.”

Markle was offered the position before she left for a site visit at Northern Arizona University (NAU), which provided plenty of meditative space. Inspired by NAU’s Indigenous Student Services, and by the endless possibilities of an ever-growing institution, Markle decided to leap into a more all-encompassing role at TRU.

Markle’s experiences in her many higher education positions have created informative intersections in her supervisor role. After graduating from the Bachelor of Social Work program at Toronto’s Ryerson University, Markle worked as the Aboriginal admissions and liaison officer. She has also worked at UBC as the Aboriginal recruiter advisor for both the Vancouver and Okanagan campuses.

During her time at Ryerson, Markle implemented an holistic admissions process for Indigenous students. “Connecting the two worlds of recruitment and admissions served to better connect with Indigenous learners.”

Markle, who is Algonquin from Long Point (Winneway) First Nation in Quebec, comes from the Bear clan and has many ties to her Anishnaabe family. Her extensive knowledge in traditional Indigenous practices and spiritual connectedness is interconnected with her work.

As student enrolment continues to grow, the collective mission at Cplul’kw’ten is to provide opportunities for outreach, community, and connection. “Cplul’kw’ten offers a space for sharing and exchange; we want all who enter to feel welcomed, honoured and supported,” she said.

“Recognizing barriers, identifying needs, fine-tuning communications, building trust and transferring of care. Access plus retention gets students that much closer to completion.”

New initiatives are being established to increase retention rates further. “By renewing and refreshing the intake process, we can better streamline services, and ensure that no student slips through administrative cracks. Our purpose is to walk hand in hand with the student from orientation to graduation,” Markle remarked.

She reflected on the recent Indigenous graduation ceremony – which commemorated 200 graduates from Williams Lake, Trades and Technology and Open Learning: “It’s such an emotional, impactful time of celebration.”

As for the future, Markle hopes to widen the scope of access to recruitment and admissions and collaborate more with Indigenous Education. “Bringing students into the circle of care, ensuring they are aware of all the essential services.”

Many students who come through Cplul’kw’ten are dealing with tremendous hardships. “From homelessness to personal challenges to domestic concerns; these individuals are forging through trauma to seek education,” she said.

Markle recognizes that there is a wide range of barriers to success, and is working to implement strategies to improve educational and bureaucratic processes both off and on campus.

“I come into this role with curiosity and caution; this is a time of discovery. We are at the birthing point of reconciliation. The TRC is at the heart of our work. It starts with the personal reflection and ripples within the circle.

“There is a revolutionary wave towards Indigenization, in which we decolonize and align all university services with considerations from United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission Calls to Action. But changing minds and attitudes takes time.”

Markle said, “I hope to nurture Joanne’s loving, accepting legacy and the relationships she established. I hope to continue her vision for future generations – I celebrate. We all have something to contribute.”

Click the link for more information about Cplul’kw’ten and Indigenous Education.

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