Project aiming to boost Indigenous student success finds need for larger 'home away from home'

New research out of Thompson Rivers University (TRU) in Kamloops, B.C., has found that Indigenous students are in need of a larger, more appropriate gathering space on campus in order to create a sense of belonging at the school.

2-year Coyote Project uncovers demand for 'sense of belonging,' more communal space

Researcher Kelsey Arnouse says the students she interviewed believe that Cplul’kw’ten, also known as The Gathering Place, is not big enough to support the growing Indigenous student population at Thompson Rivers University. (Thompson Rivers University)

Thompson Rivers University (TRU) has determined that Indigenous students are in need of a larger, more appropriate gathering space on campus in order to create a sense of belonging at the school.

Since the Truth and Reconciliation Commission calls to action were published in 2015, the university in Kamloops, B.C., has made a push to create a stronger sense of community among Indigenous students, and increase student recruitment, retention and completion of programs.

Part of that push is The Coyote Project, a two-year research project conducted throughout the institution, with the goal of learning what services Indigenous students need to be successful.

Researchers conducted lengthy interviews with more than 30 Indigenous students about services needed at TRU, and the desire for a communal space larger than what is already there was one of the most popular recommendations.

"For a lot of [the students] it came down to a sense of belonging here," researcher Kelsey Arnouse told CBC's Radio West host Sarah Penton.  

"Lots of them weren't from Kamloops, they weren't from the Kamloops area, so they were away from home and it was important to them that they had a home away from home."

TRU does have a space on campus designated for Indigenous students called Cplul'kw'ten, or the Gathering Place, which includes a kitchen, study space and event space. While students said they are grateful the space exists, they also say it has grown in popularity since it was put in place and there just isn't enough room for everyone to enjoy it.  

The final paper on the project has not yet been published, but when it is, Arnouse said she hopes the university will implement change aimed at increasing Indigenous student retention at TRU. 

With files from Radio West