Aboriginal higher learner success factors at vancouver community college

Human Resource Integration Strategies

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Human Resource Integration Strategies

In this section, I examine current integration strategies that support greater representation of Aboriginal peoples in post-secondary education. If these integration strategies were sufficiently represented, they could eliminate or mitigate all of the barriers identified above, with the exception of access to funding and geographic isolation. Integration strategies are not specific to Aboriginal peoples; rather, it is a strategic response to unprecedented levels of diversity in the Vancouver area. Indeed, projected demographics, emerging economic imperatives, and increasingly turbulent political and legal challenges have converged to an extent that inclusion and diversity will be among the most critical issues facing higher education in the twenty-first century (Williams et al., 2005, p. 2).

Williams et al. (2005) argued that affirmative action hiring policies have limited success due to shifting demographics, political and legal dynamics, social inequalities, and workforce needs. Therefore, a more sophisticated matrix of inclusive second level excellence strategies are required that are “essential to ensure higher education’s continuing relevance in the twenty-first century” (p. 3). Williams et al. defined inclusive excellence as

a key component of a comprehensive strategy for achieving institutional excellence—which includes, but is not limited to, the academic excellence of all students in attendance and concerted efforts to educate all students to succeed in a diverse society and equip them with sophisticated intercultural skills. (p. 3)

First-level strategies are short-term tactics that establish new programs and enhanced services, but do not address systems change. Second-level strategies are those that create organizational learning that deeply affects long-term systemic change that includes addressing key elements of organizational change. Organizational change includes the mission, vision, values, traditions, and norms, which radiate out to espoused values related behaviours, traditions, myths and symbols, and visible campus infrastructure and marketing that transform the organization. Williams et al. asserted that this kind of change also requires purposeful strategies that support leadership capacity development to coordinate and integrate efforts toward inclusive excellence through an integrated multidimensional framework of organizational behaviour: systemic, bureaucratic/ structural, collegial, political, and symbolic (pp. 1218). Williams et al. recommended establishing multi-year measures of progress through an inclusive excellence scorecard for access, equity, campus climate, diversity in the information and formal curriculum, and student learning and development.

Although affirmative action hiring policies alone do not support the broad level of organizational transformation required for inclusive excellence, it is an important component. One identified best practice that can support the increased representation of Aboriginal peoples within VCC can be derived from the York University (2001) Affirmative Action Plan, which is intended to “increase[e] the number of women, members of racial/visible minorities, aboriginal people and persons with disabilities in tenure-stream positions and to attracting the most highly qualified candidates” (p. 2). This practice recognizes that with the large number of retiring baby boomers, increasingly, “demand greatly exceeds supply, and it is a sellers' market when it comes to recruitment of faculty at all levels” (pp. 34). The processes utilized to recruit are to hire from within the existing pool of faculty with a priority included in the aim to “strongly encourage women, racial/visible minorities, persons with disabilities and Aboriginal people to apply” (pp. 56). The processes include soliciting candidates from graduate schools with a cover letter identifying this priority for hiring, networks from existing staff who fit within the hiring criteria, and regular advertising in print and at conferences highlighting the above priority hiring statement. For senior leadership functions, creative processes can be utilized including establishing a

search committee will ensure that: the search is proactive; unbiased criteria are established; women candidates are identified; members of racial/visible minorities, aboriginal people and persons with disabilities who self-identify are identified; racial/visible minorities, aboriginal people, persons with disabilities and women interviewed are made to feel comfortable and that substantial equality requirements are followed. The committee will then recommend a candidate to the Dean and Operating Committee. (York University, 2001, p. 10)

The York University hiring process is similar to VCC’s, where each school is responsible for identifying candidates who are then interviewed by a operating committee who in turn provides their recommendations. However, at York University (2001), “in an effort to conduct a more affirmative search, the School’s Affirmative Action Representative identifies a person to act as an Affirmative Action Advocate” (p. 10). The role of the Advocate is to ensure that the Area’s or Program’s hiring process follows the affirmative action guidelines and to participate in meetings relevant to the hiring process, thus complementing the Operating Committee’s adherence to the Affirmative Action Plan and supporting the Joint Implementation Committee. A critical component to the York University Affirmative Action Plan is the evaluation of representation at the institute in relation to practices and targets resulting in an increase of tenure-track women from 3% in 1986/87 to 25% as of 2000.

This would complement ACCC (2005) recommendations to increase the number of Aboriginal staff and faculty at colleges and institutes (p. 64) and would ensure that “students feel understood and supported in the challenges they are facing while attending colleges and institutes” (p. 71). Consistent with the inclusive excellence model proposed by Williams et al. (2005), within this plan, annual measures should be established that support diversity targets, including supporting the development of diversity within leadership at VCC. This plan should also include education and training for all existing employees and new employees that could be modified from the Teaching Aboriginal Higher Learners Professional Development Workshop (Mixon, 2008c) to mitigate racism within VCC. This plan would also

enhance the capacity of faculty and staff to work with Aboriginal learners by: Ensuring faculty and staff have a better understanding of Aboriginal culture by offering mandatory diversity training for faculty and staff; increasing staff sensitivity to issues of systemic racism and poverty facing many Aboriginal learners; and increase professional development for faculty in Aboriginal institutions. (ACCC, 2005, p. 64)

Within this professional development capacity, development of all teaching faculty is important when

many administrators assume Aboriginal teachers are richly endowed with Aboriginal knowledge, language, and relationships, but the reality is that Aboriginal teachers feel equally as unprepared as their non-Aboriginal teachers who are required to build Aboriginal content into their classrooms. All teachers have been educated in Eurocentric systems that have dismissed Indigenous knowledge and pedagogy. (Battiste, 2002, p. 25)

Therefore, this latter training should be developed in partnership with the Aboriginal Education Council and the VCC Centre for Instructional Design, to support regular professional development for teaching faculty.

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