Have You Met…The Office of the Vice-Provost (Indigenous Programming and Research) Team?

Spend a few minutes getting to know the Office of the Vice-Provost (Indigenous Programming & Research) team and their work a little better.

Image for PostDr. Florence Glanfield and Kelsey Dokis-Jansen

The Office of the Vice-Provost (Indigenous Programming & Research) was established on August 1, 2019. Spend a few minutes getting to know the team and their work a little better.

Dr. Florence Glanfield, a member of the Métis Nation of Alberta, is well-acquainted with the University of Alberta. After first visiting North Campus as a child on a school field trip in 1970, Florence would return again and again for her post-secondary education as she pursued programs in mathematics, education, educational administration, and a PhD in mathematics education. In 2007, she became a faculty member in the Faculty of Education, and eventually moved into the role of Chair of the Department of Secondary Education. For someone who had always dreamed of being a teacher, it was the perfect path.

"The U of A has always been a place of generative ideas for me in all aspects of my professional and personal life," Florence says. "I've learned so much from the people at this institution and feel so much pride, gratitude, and humility when I say that I've studied at, and now work at the U of A."

Now, Florence is continuing her work as a teacher in a new way, one that looks to support the campus community to develop meaningful, paradigm-shifting understandings around the concepts of decolonization, reconciliation, and Indigenization.

As part of the University of Alberta's response to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's Calls to Action, the Office of the Vice-Provost (Indigenous Programming & Research) was created. Florence was appointed to the new role of Vice-Provost (Indigenous Programming & Research) on August 1, 2019 to lead the portfolio, and joined Indigenous Initiatives Manager Kelsey Dokis-Jansen.

Kelsey similarly has fond, early memories of being at the U of A, attending daycare while her mother worked and studied on campus. Her interest in resource management and environmental monitoring led her through an invigorating academic career: undergraduate studies in the Faculty of Agricultural, Life and Environmental Sciences (ALES), a MSc through the ALES department of Resource Economics and Environmental Sociology focused on linking Indigenous knowledge and western science, and her current PhD in Indigenous Studies examining Indigenous-led conservation initiatives.

During Kelsey's undergraduate studies, she noticed that there was little content including Indigenous peoples or knowledges incorporated into the academic requirements of environmental programming. Working with Lutsel K'e Dene First Nation in the Northwest Territories on research about caribou monitoring during her MSc, she discovered how Western and Indigenous approaches could work effectively together, ultimately producing more robust research outcomes.

"From that experience I took away an increased appreciation of the breadth and depth of knowledge held by Indigenous communities, not only related to traditional knowledge systems and practice, but also a deep understanding of how ethical research is conducted," Dokis-Jansen says. "It was during my time in Lutsel K'e and through my ongoing relationship with the community that I have had some of my most valued learning experiences around acting as an ethically engaged researcher."

These understandings will direct Florence and Kelsey's work in this office, with respect to four key areas:

1. Indigenization of curriculum

2. Respectful and ethical research with Indigenous peoples and communities

3. Supportive and healthy workplace environments for Indigenous faculty and staff

4. Respectful relationships with Indigenous community partners

What interested you in a role with the Indigenous Programming & Research office?

Kelsey: "There's this desire to see Indigenous people engaged in respectful and meaningful ways, there's this excitement about the work, but there's also a need to be thoughtful about how we move forward. We have this opportunity to think differently about how we craft policies and see the relationship with Indigenous communities and the generation of knowledge."

Florence: "I've come to make sense of the concepts of decolonization, reconciliation, and Indigenization in particular ways because of the spaces that I have experienced at the University of Alberta. I want to be part of ensuring that the spaces we have here can be experienced as places of generative ideas and possibilities for individuals who are here and who will follow in this time of transition in Alberta and in Canada. We are developing understandings of how institutions like universities are living out these concepts."

What are your goals for this office?

Kelsey: "Transforming the culture of the institution to one that is about living with, and welcoming, Indigenous knowledges, knowledge systems, practices, people, and pedagogies. There is a lot of talk about creating safe and supportive spaces for Indigenous people at universities and other sectors in general, and these are very high-level goals. We're talking about shifting paradigms and changing institutional structures that have been in place for a very long time. It's about transforming the way that we see knowledge and education. The role of an office like this, and of Indigenous peoples in a research-intensive university, is to guide that development. There are already inherent principles within Indigenous knowledge systems and beliefs systems that are grounded in the aspirations of universities to be inclusive and open."

Florence: "Part of the work of this office is to untangle and develop understandings of decolonization, reconciliation, and Indigenization for the U of A. When you're a teacher you know that these ideas can be introduced, but they can never fully be understood, and all the way along you are supporting people in their development. We are in the position to learn about how the people we work with on campus, individually and at the institutional level, have experienced, understood, and lived with these concepts, then support them to develop connections to see their own agency in living out the concepts. Our work will always be changing as individuals change their understanding of the concepts. The mind, body, emotions, and spirit must all be engaged in this work. This isn't work that can happen in two years."

Kelsey: "Indigenous approaches inherently shift institutional practices to where it aspires to be. In Anishinaabe teachings, learning is seen as a deeply personal and individualized experience. People have to experience things for themselves to ultimately shift and change their beliefs. Connecting something we understand intellectually with deep feeling is how we change the way we interact in our relationships.

That's the underlying, deeply human work we're also here to do: how to relate to each other in different ways."

How can individual people and faculties engage with the Indigenous Programming & Research office?

Kelsey: "There is a need for capacity-building to happen throughout the university. We want to support faculties as they Indigenize their curriculums, but we can't do that work for them. We can advise, we can look at structures and policies supporting that work, but the actual work of developing course content and engaging with Indigenous community partners will have to happen within faculties and departments."

Florence: "Many departments and faculties are already doing their own work in this area, and we envision ourselves as a hub to promote connection, collaboration and supportive policy for that work to continue and grow. Anyone can contact us, we have an open-door policy."