The University of Ottawa has launched a new program to have an Indigenous elder provide guidance and advice to Indigenous students studying law.

Claudette Commanda, an Algonquin Anishinabe from Kitigan Zibi First Nation and University of Ottawa alumnus, has been hired as the first elder in residence.

Commanda will provide guidance, advice and counselling for Indigenous students in the university's faculty of law. 

"It's very exciting to take on this role," she said Monday. "Many of the students leave home and they feel this disconnection and they need to feel this sense of belonging. They will feel this community of belonging."

The position begins in September when the fall semester begins. 

'Reconciliation through education'

Students need help learning how to balance school and personal priorities to successfully complete their education, Commanda said.

Her new job is meant to help Indigenous law students achieve that balance. 

On top of that, she hopes her influence will be a step in the right direction for Indigenous relationships. 

"It's also to educate professors and faculty," Commanda said. "It's all about reconciliation through education."

Speaking from her own experience as a University of Ottawa law graduate, she said a guiding influence is a key to success. 

"It's small steps, but you make big change."