A new program at Western aims to support first-year Indigenous students transition to life on campus and foster their connection to Indigenous culture and language.
The Alumni Mentorship and Language Revitalization Program will be led by the Office of Indigenous Initiatives, Wampum Learning Lodge and the Indigenous Student Centre in collaboration with the local Indigenous community. The goals are to create a sense of belonging through mentorship opportunities between first-year Indigenous students and Indigenous alumni at Western while engaging in language learning, cultural reclamation, and revitalization. The program supports first-year Indigenous students in their transition to Western and will offer an opportunity for Indigenous community members to access language learning.
“Indigenous language reclamation and revitalization is important because of the strong connection to identity and culture that one builds when their native language becomes part of their everyday life. My hope is that this program is the start of a lifelong language learning journey for participants,” said Paula Cornelius-Hedgepeth, community relations and space coordinator at the Wampum Learning Lodge. “Also, the recognition of Indigenous language learning as beneficial for Indigenous students will help decolonize Western’s institutional practices and take steps towards reconciliation.”
The program is among four new projects supported through Western’s Parr Centre for Thriving. The Centre, launched with the support of a $9.2-million gift from Jeff and Shelley Parr in August 2020, provides collaborative approaches to proactive student mental health and well-being.
“Young people have to navigate a complex world today, particularly when they step onto campus, and providing them with support to enable them to thrive is very important to both Shelley and me,” said Jeff Parr, BA’82.
Additional funded projects include:
Redesigning large first-year classes to help students thrive
The transition from high school to university can be a stressful time for students, especially when it comes to adapting to large, lecture-based classes. As part of this project, leads Niki Sharan, biology professor, and Ingrid Johnsrude, neuroscience professor, plan to incorporate engaged learning lab exercises into two of Western’s largest first-year classes, Biology and Psychology. They will also integrate mental health supports into their courses by training more than 100 teaching assistants in mental health ‘first aid’ and expanding mentorship opportunities for students in the two subjects.
Western Wellness Passport
The goal of the Western Wellness Passport is to empower Western students to prioritize and actively pursue their holistic well-being throughout their academic journey. By creating a wellness passport that integrates seven dimensions of student wellness – physical, emotional, intellectual, social, occupational, spiritual, and environmental – they will be encouraged to set wellness goals and track their progress.
Increasing pride at Western
Led by the Office of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion, the Increasing Pride at Western project is meant to increase understanding of the diverse needs of Western’s 2SLGBTQIA+ community, including space, services and support, particularly for international students, students who are not able to be ‘out’, students who are exploring their identities and gender-diverse students.