The University of Guelph is set to boost the number of indigenous faculty members and provide new grants in an effort to get more aboriginal people educated.
In a release, the university said recruitment will begin shortly and the five new professors will be brought on over the next six to 18 months. The educators will be given tenured positions across the school's various disciplines.
"This initiative will help the university transform its learning environment and further enhance our existing student support," the university's provost and vice-president Charlotte Yates said in a statement.
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Five new graduate awards for aboriginal scholars will also be available as part of the project. They're worth $15,000 a year for master's students and $30,000 annually for PhD students. A $45,000 post-doctoral award is expected to be given to an aboriginal researcher.
'I think the importance of having the [aboriginal] faculty on campus does effect the climate.' - Cara Wehkamp, University of Guelph
Cara Wehkamp, manager of the university's aboriginal resource centre intercultural affairs office, said she thinks the announcements make an impact.
"Aboriginal people are still underrepresented in the post-secondary system," Wehkamp said. "I think the importance of having the [aboriginal] faculty on campus does effect the climate."
The announcements come in response to last fall's Truth and Reconciliation Commission report, which Yates described as a call to action for universities to embrace. Statistics Canada data shows only 9 per cent of aboriginal adults have a university degree in Canada, compared to 21 per cent for non-aboriginal people.
"It's an important announcement in response to TRC recommendations," said Wehkamp, who adds there's a general excitement amongst students that can broaden the learning experience on campus.
"It's a good stride in making sure we are doing the work that needs to be done to shift the understanding and ensure that we're respecting aboriginal cultures and ways of knowing."
Wehkamp stressed the importance of providing an opportunity for young, aboriginal learners "to see university as a place for them."
The university's plan "will increase knowledge creation by aboriginal scholars and encourage training of the next generation of scholars," Yates said.
The university said these moves are aimed at supporting those of First Nations origin and will benefit the entire school.
"This type of strategy that is working to ensure there is aboriginal scholars at both the faculty level, as well as support for students, is important," Wehkamp said.
"I see this initiative as being the next step."