Lori Campbell, and others like her, are working to fight misconceptions about the place of Indigenous folks in our society. Many Indigenous students feel that some fields, such as business, have no place for them.
“It seems like Indigenous young people, [are] not going into the regular business programs at other schools even at the rates that they are [going] in some of the other programs,” Campbell, director of St. Paul’s Waterloo Indigenous Student Centre, said. “When you talk to these students, they just don’t see themselves as having this inherent connection to business, and so we’re trying to counter that.”
Campbell is working with a team, including JP Gladau, Chancellor of St.-Paul’s University College, to create the Bachelor of Indigenous Entrepreneurship program at St. Paul’s University College. The program will explore business from an Indigenous perspective, using Indigenous philosophies and case studies.
Students will complete two years of study in any Canadian university before transferring to the University of Waterloo (UW) to take business courses. Campbell stated that this would allow students to remain closer to home for the first few years, and help them evaluate how suitable university is for them.
This program will explore aspects of business that are not usually emphasized in mainstream business programs —for example, taxation and doing business on a reserve. Another focus of this program is to help build self-confidence in students, especially in their indigenity, Campbell stated.
“There’s some really great philosophy and history that are Indigenous-based about engaging in business,” Campbell said. “We’re looking at building [the program] from the inside-out —building a person’s confidence and understanding, and their connection to their own indigeneity and history and context of being engaged in business, and then working out from there.”
“I can’t stress enough the importance of and the value of knowing who you are and being confident in that you have a place and a skillset and an inherent ability to participate in the economy and in any field that’s out there,” Campbell said.
The program will provide students with opportunities for mentorship by Indigenous people in business fields and the possibility of co-op is also being explored. Non-Indigenous students would also be welcomed and encouraged to enroll. Campbell believes that one of the benefits of having this program at UW is increased interaction between Indigenous and non-Indigenous students and faculty.
“One of the benefits is the opportunity to build stronger relationships between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people for students who come into the program,” Campbell said. “I also think that it’s a really good fit for Waterloo because we’re kind of thought of as a university that solves problems, that creates change, that invents things, and is innovative, and I think we can do better at that if we have more Indigenous voices on campus and if we have the opportunity for students to work together.”