FNUniv expanded facilities making positive impacts on students
- NC Raine | November 21, 2019
A new First Nations University of Canada (FNUniv) campus, with expanded facilities and new technology – all of which have been designed from the perspective of making positive impacts – has opened its doors this week in Saskatoon.
Coming just a day after the Gabriel Dumont Institute celebrated the grand opening in Saskatoon for its GDI Building, the FNUniv has celebrated its own opening on the Muskeg Lake Cree Nation urban reserve in Saskatoon.
“It's been a long journey getting here, and a lot of thoughts and collaboration have gone into building this environment for our students,” said Jason Wong, FNUniv Vice-President of finance and administration.
“Our students are our leaders and they're the ones that are going to carry on the torch to help our Indigenous people go forward in today's world.”
The opening of the new campus comes after several years as a tenant of the Saskatchewan Indigenous Institute of Technologies (SIIT) in Saskatoon. The FNUniv signed a 10-year lease to occupy the space on the Muskeg Lake Cree Nation urban reserve.
The facility, which also houses a new library, will provide a learning environment for students and faculty which will allow for direct interaction and exposure to First Nations political and business leadership. The building also houses the headquarters of the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations (FSIN).
“We wanted to make sure we created a space that was beautiful and welcoming, and a home for our students to come and feel safe,” said Wong. “The space truly embodies Indigenous values in terms of our perspectives, our worldviews, our traditions, and our cultures.”
In order to get ready for the fall semester, the campus underwent weeks of renovation and remodelling. It now has four classrooms that are equipped with videoconferencing, a student lounge, meeting rooms, staff offices, a student association office, and a elders and traditional room where students and staff can meet with elders for smudging and prayer.
As a main component to the celebration, FNUniv asked several current students to share their insights on the school and the impacts it had.
“As a [person with a] disability, I feel like it doesn't even matter in this school. I'm not looked upon like that. Rather, I'm accepted here for my knowledge,” said Walter Jimmy, a second-year student in social work.
“We love this school and we're trying to build kinship and family here,” he said. “We want to take care of one another first.”
Vanessa Jack, fourth year Indigenous social work student and vice-president of the student association, reflected impact the school has on identity.
“I am very proud to attend school here. As this is a gateway for us to understand and walk in balance of cultural and western worlds,” she said. “That's what we really learned here – how to be native, how to be proud, how to walk with our heads up.”