Aboriginal higher learner success factors at vancouver community college

Recommendation 3: Commitment to Inclusive Excellence

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Recommendation 3: Commitment to Inclusive Excellence

Inclusive excellence is a model of excellence in higher education that infuses diversity within and across organizational systems through the alignment of structures, politics, curricular frameworks, faculty development, policies, resources, symbols, and cultures (Williams et al., 2005, p. 3). At VCC, this is particularly important given that the community VCC serves is expected to have the highest level of diversity in Canada. Specific to this research, the implementation of inclusive excellence would support the activation of the VCC First Nations Employment Equity Policy (as cited in VCC, 1994) with the expanded leadership team as a part of the current strategic planning process beyond the original intent of the policy for the benefit of all learners.

Specific application within an overall inclusive excellence model would be led by the expanded leadership team and includes creating a vision of inclusivity, establishing buy-in, building capacity of leaders, and leveraging resources (Williams et al., 2005, p. 31) to establish anti-racism strategies and strengthen policies. The goal of this work would be to review the hiring policy to ensure that VCC employees and leaders are representative of the community it serves including Aboriginal peoples, women, and other marginalized groups who could build the capacity and sustainability of VCC to becoming more effective, relevant and efficient in serving its local community. This imperative to sustain the viability of VCC by building a more diverse and inclusive VCC community will only grow in an increasingly diverse region where future labour markets will be made up primarily of the burgeoning immigrant and Aboriginal population who will make up the majority of the labour force in the next decade. It is important that within this review, VCC consider the VCC First Nations Employment Equity Policy (as cited in VCC, 1994) and the VCC Aboriginal Education Strategy 2010–2013 (Mixon, 2010) that targets an Aboriginal participation rate of 5% of VCC employees through “discussions with the appropriate components of the college and will include both management and union representation” (VCC, 1994, p. D.1), in consultation with an Aboriginal Advisory Committee in conjunction with the Board of Governors (p. B.3).

An important component of this work is ensuring that sufficient awareness is generated within VCC to support the “organizational learning necessary to address formal routines and procedures as well as more informal, but very powerful, values and norms (Williams et al., 2005, p. 10), where, for VCC, there is strong pride and identity for being a community college. However, for the college to truly be a community college, it should be reflective of the community it serves, not distinctly different from it. This alignment would improve organizational capacity and responsiveness to community need by having the inherent understandings necessary. Kotter (1996) asserted,

In the final analysis, change sticks only when it becomes the way we do things around here, when it seeps into the very bloodstream of the work unit or corporate body. Until new behaviours are rooted in social norms and shared values, they are always subject o degradation as soon as the pressures associated with a change effort are removed. (p. 14)

Recommendation 4: Student Body Citizenship

To support student body citizenship, it is recommended that an Aboriginal studies course be developed as a requirement for ESL, immigrant, and developmental programs to mitigate racism and support citizenship development for Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal learners. Recognizing the high level of diversity that will make up the VCC college region in the next decade, VCC must take a leadership role to develop educational programming that supports cultural inclusivity and diversity within the college and community through citizenship and leadership development of students who will make up the dominant workforce who support the local economy. This would be an introduction to First Nations Studies course for ESL, immigrant, and students enrolled in developmental programs to “help students deal with racism and diversity issues” (ACCC, 2005, p. 16).

This program must be supported by a communications strategy similar to The Positive Space Campaign (Milem, in press) intended to help make institutes more receptive to and welcoming of its lesbian, gay, bisexual, queer, questioning, transgender, transsexual, gender variant, two-spirit, and intersex communities, individuals, and issues of sexual and gender diversity, which institutionalizes awareness through training and posters advertised within the college. Posters that support awareness of citizenship and diversity should be a component of this program. These kinds of curriculum enhancement projects transcend the diversity rational and are proven to promote cultural understanding and diversity through improved racial understandings, student satisfaction, citizenship, value for diversity, improved learning, and critical thinking skills (pp. 56).

These combined considerations for implementation would result in increased capacity of Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal instructors’ ability to deliver culturally relevant programs through enhanced understandings that effect curriculum design, identification, and use of culturally relevant course materials, flexible delivery models (e.g., community/ college, cohort/ blended, work/study programs), culturally relevant assessments and evaluations, and teaching methodologies that support cultural integration using a constructivist methodology. This teaching methodology is already being promoted by the VCC Centre for Instructional Design. VCC, however, must undertake a new model of curriculum design that, consistent with constructivist methodology, includes identifying

community needs for training and education through a number of different approaches, including: Direct dialogue with Aboriginal community partners, agencies, education authorities and First/Nation and Band administration; Staff and administrators of Aboriginal service areas or departments within mainstream institutions; Aboriginal advisory structures; Program advisory committees; Learner/student centred approach to developing programs; College/institute contract training services; Ongoing relationships with Aboriginal community partners; Regular meetings, consultations and focus groups with First Nations Bands, Band Education and Training Officers, communities and Aboriginal organizations to discuss education and training needs; Faculty contacts with Aboriginal communities; Liaison with primary and secondary schools in Aboriginal communities and Aboriginal school boards; Surveys and labour market studies at the regional or community level; Environmental scanning to identify opportunities and possibilities that are researched and considered for implementation. (ACCC, 2005, p. 55)

Responding directly to feedback from focus groups to improve understanding of Aboriginal peoples and sensitivities, student body citizenship will specifically require increased delivery of the Teaching Aboriginal Higher Learner Workshop (Mixon, 2008c) for all teaching faculty, with a modified version that supports non-teaching faculty, both new and existing, to benefit from the increased understanding and capacity that is being realized through this workshop. Implementation will also require increased awareness within the student body of diversity, with the intent to mitigating racism and building cultural understanding that benefits employees and students of all cultural backgrounds.

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