Indigenous Studies Programs Partnership to Ladder to Wilfrid Laurier University and McMaster University’s Indigenous Studies Bachelor Degree Programs

Christina Perris, David Simon, Linda Basso, Vanessa Watts

Executive Summary

Mohawk College and Lambton College have worked in collaboration with Wilfrid Laurier University (WLU) and McMaster University to develop an Indigenous Studies stream of their General Arts and Science/Liberal Studies Diploma programs.  The motivation for establishing the Indigenous Studies stream was to establish 2+2 degree completion pathways to Indigenous-focused degree programs.  Reduction of mobility barriers and seamless transitions will allow students to complete a college diploma and university degree in four years.

The learning outcomes and content for the Indigenous Studies stream was developed in partnership with the Program Coordinators from McMaster and WLU to ensure this cohort of college graduates will enter the respective programs with the educational foundation needed to be successful.  The content is aligned with the values and principles that are taught in McMaster and Laurier’s Indigenous Studies BA programs.  The outcome of this project is the creation of distinct pathways from two college programs into specific degrees at the two universities.

In addition to the goal of creating additional opportunities for this cohort of learners, it is the hope that in the future this collaboration will be replicable and scalable by other institutions outside of the current project.  At the current time, we have completed new program and curriculum development and a framework for this type of collaborative process.

Project Purpose and Goals

The overall goal of this project was to establish a beneficial pathway for Indigenous and non-Indigenous students that would like to pursue college and university education in the discipline of Indigenous Studies.  The pathway is intended to be innovative, collaborative and provide a concrete opportunity for this underserved cohort.  The institutions involved in the project were compelled to incorporate Indigenous-focused curriculum to increase retention and encourage program completion for Indigenous learners.  Establishing these pathways will create more opportunities for students to pursue university level education and support institutional priorities of diversifying the student populations at WLU and McMaster.

A priority of the project was to engage and consult with The Chippewa’s of Kettle and Stoney Point, Walpole Island First Nation and Aamjiwnaang First Nation in the Sarnia-Lambton area, the Six Nations of the Grand River Territory and the Mississauga of the New Credit First Nation in Hamilton and surrounding area, urban Indigenous populations in the Hamilton and Brantford areas, as well as other South-western Ontario First Nations communities throughout the duration of the project to ensure that community specific content was at the core of the new Indigenous Studies curriculum.

Due to a set of criteria at Grand River Post Secondary Education Office (GRPSEO), there is a requirement for students with Grand River Territory lineage to complete both sets of education (Diploma and Degree) within a four-year period in order to receive the maximum amount of funding that is available to them.  Because of this reason, McMaster and WLU are committed to exploring full credit recognition for the two years of college study that graduates would have completed.  In understanding that this pathway would have to function as a 2+2 agreement, it became increasingly important to prioritize the development of a core curriculum which would be applied to each existing diploma.

The colleges are committed to increasing and improving Indigenous content in their courses, certificate programs and diplomas.  After the intensive course development process is complete, they will continue to deliver the Indigenous programs and offer the courses as elective credits to students outside of the respective programs.

The overall goal of this project is to develop a scalable Indigenous Studies curriculum that is aligned with the learning outcomes and themes that are present in WLU and McMaster’s Indigenous Studies programs.  The framework and collaborative focus of this project is something that all parties involved believe can be applied to other institutions that would like to pursue similar pathway projects.