First Nations University of Canada
Founded in 1976, First Nations University of Canada (FNUniv) is a recognized post-secondary institution that offers opportunities in educational advancement for Indigenous and non-Indigenous students, serving to students’ academic, cultural, and spiritual needs. With three campuses in Regina, Saskatoon, and Prince Albert, First Nations University of Canada is recognized as a federated college of the University of Regina, with its programming degrees accredited through the university.
Over 25,000 students have made the First Nations University of Canada part of their educational journey. In addition to traditional post-secondary majors, First Nations University of Canada also offers specialized programming which meets the needs of the Aboriginal community, such as its Education and Health Studies programs. FNUniv is the only Indigenous institution member of the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada.
“We bring a world view right into the classroom and into the daily lives of students, including indigenous culture and language,” David Sharpe, Chair of the FNUniv Board of Governors, told The Canadian Business Journal. “This is a fundamental aspect of our institution and we incorporate it into all of the programs that our university has to offer. We have strong programming in Indigenous Social Work, business and public administration, and applied arts and sciences.
Our university adds indigenous content into programming, which creates an environment where students can really get engaged with indigenous cultural practices.”
A member of the Mohawks of the Bay of Quinte, Tyendinaga First Nation, Sharpe is the first FNUniv Chair to live outside of Saskatchewan (he is based in Toronto). Sharpe has served on the Board since 2010.
Sharpe stated, “Our Board of Governors brings a breadth of expertise and leadership from across Canada and from an array of fields: health, law, business, governance, and post-secondary education, to name a few. We are focused on FNUniv flourishing as an indigenous post-secondary institute of higher learning where Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal students pursue studies in challenging and economically relevant programming that prepares them for a bright future.”
FNUniv: A National Treasure
FNUniv has its sights set on developing a national vision, completing a strategic plan which emphasizes increased enrollment levels and to build on its community impact. As Sharpe summarized, “There is a high demand for strong business leaders in First Nations across the country so it’s a great growth area for the university, at all three of our campuses.
“Saskatchewan’s First Nations population is growing at a much higher rate than non-First Nations poulation, so education and learning about culture from the ground up is key, as well as learning about sound governance and business practices. We want to partner and build our relationships with Canada’s corporate base. We have a lot of First Nations and indigenous young people and we must get them educated, so let’s partner with business in doing so.”
Juliano Tupone, Acting President of First Nations University of Canada, is a former student of its Indigenous Business Administration program. Tupone added, “We look very closely at incorporating how indigenous people can play an important role in the mainstream population. When you come to First Nations University of Canada, if you study business, you get a solid business education but we also bring indigenous teachings to that contemporary, mainstream education, and that builds confidence for students.”
FNUniv students experience a welcoming and inviting environment that not only enhances the learning experience but also helps in preparing students for life outside of the classroom. They feel a connectedness with the institution that doesn’t leave them once they graduate.
“Our university engages with the private sector and there is natural fit for both of us to do that given the important issues of demographic trends and indigenous education across the country. Our university will play an important role in that in the years to come,” Tupone summarized. “We have a fairly big footprint for a small institution with a relatively small faculty. Our university touches a lot of people and has a big impact given its size.”
Since its founding more than 35 years ago as the Saskatchewan Indian Federation College, First Nations University of Canada has continued to stand by its founding vision of providing enhanced quality of life opportunities in education, and to preserve, protect, and interpret the cultural significances of First Nations heritage.