By Mariam Nouser
Earlier this semester, Ryerson hired eight new full-time tenured Indigenous faculty members.
According to Ryerson’s 2018 Employee Diversity Self-ID Report, only one per cent of employees identified as Indigenous in 2016 and 2018.
A former spokesperson for the university said Ryerson plans to hire three more Indigenous faculty members during the 2019-20 year.
Ryerson provost and vice-president, academic Michael Benarroch said in September that the hiring of these members will strengthen the university’s commitment to truth and reconciliation on campus.
The Eyeopener got to speak to two of the eight new hires: Eva Jewell, assistant professor in Indigenous feminism in the department of sociology and Cheryllee Bourgeois, assistant professor in Indigenous midwifery practice and education as part of Ryerson’s Faculty of Community Services.
Meet the professors
Jewell is an Anishinaabekwe from Deshkan Ziibiing (Chippewas of the Thames First Nation) in southwestern Ontario. Her scholarship supports community-based inquiries on topics of language, governance and cultural resurgence amongst Anishinaabe peoples and within her community. Jewell is “interested in the role of Anishinaabekwe (Anishinaabe womxn) in our original governance methods, as well as the many ways that Indigenous peoples are currently reclaiming their ways of life in the midst of ongoing colonialism.”
Bourgeois is a Cree, Métis midwife. She grew up in B.C. but her traditional territory is in southern Manitoba in the Grand River colony. Her teachers have mainly been Cree and Métis people from Saskatoon and Manitoba. She has taught as a sessional instructor for the midwifery program since 2008 before joining as a faculty member this year.
“I’ve done a lot of work trying to create a safe space for Indigenous students in that period…But I’m hoping that [this] position will allow me to continue to do some of that work,” said Bourgeois.
Advice for Indigenous students
“Find good mentors who understand where you are coming from. Make connections to the Indigenous student services in your university,” said Jewell. “This is your experience so make the most of it!”
Bourgeois says students need to think critically about what they want to bring with their education.
“It’s important to think critically about what you’re doing with the knowledge you’re receiving [from the university]…And what you’re comfortable sharing [from] what you’re not,” said Bourgeois.
She said pursuing post-secondary education is a good way to go, but there are other options. She says university students need to think about how the interactions and what they are actually learning to know what is useful take on.
Goals as a professor at Ryerson
As a new professor, Jewell is interested in applying impactful teaching methods—her short-term goal is to ensure the courses she teaches are reflective of that for positive student experience. She is an associate fellow at the Yellowhead Institute, a First Nation-led think tank housed at Ryerson. In the long-term, Jewell said she is interested in “contributing to Yellowhead’s mission to support Indigenous communities in their reclamation efforts and assist them using community-based research.”
Bourgeois aims to start an Indigenous midwifery stream within the midwifery program. For Indigenous students, she wants to support them with apprenticeship opportunities across the country in partnership with community systems. She also hopes to provide tools for other students to provide culturally safe care for Indigenous clients.
Indigenizing education and campus
Jewell says institutions should be attentive and analytical of how colonialism continues to shape Canada the current academic institutional structure.
“Support Indigenous faculty and administration by listening to the needs of these faculty—needs of Indigenous faculty often include community commitments and this should be recognized as part of our work,” she said.
“Educational experiences can be impactful if they reflect Indigenous pedagogical practices beyond a typical classroom setting. Be open to and support institutional change, and work with Indigenous Nations whose territory you are on.”
For Bourgeois, she thinks that the institution can focus on improving access to the community.
To her, it is up to institutions to further indigenize education, she is not up to doing that work. She sees herself as being an advocate for Indigenous people in the community and at the institution.