Cynthia James, one of 15 people currently enrolled in Yukon College’s new Indigenous Governance program, poses for a photo at the college in Whitehorse on Sep. 4. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)

Indigenous Governance program enrolment at Yukon College meets expectations: dean

Total registration at the college has seen a 15 per cent increase in the last year

As of Sept. 4, Yukon College’s fledgling Indigenous Governance program has 15 students registered — the majority of whom are Indigenous.

This comes at a time when the college itself is experiencing an uptick in enrollment — a bump of 15 per cent compared to last year. On Sept. 4, 2017 there were 665 students registered; on the same date this year there are 769.

And these numbers could change — in fact, they’re expected to, at least for the Indigenous Governance degree.

Michael Vernon, communications coordinator at the school, said administration predicts registration will climb to near 20 students as many applications remain pending.

When it comes to the makeup of this class itself, Andrew Richardson, the dean of applied arts, said on Aug. 31 that there was only one non-Indigenous student in the degree.

“It’s not a closed program,” he said, adding that the head count is about where he expected it to be.

The 90-credit undergraduate degree is being rolled out this fall and takes three years to complete.

Six new courses have been unveiled, theoretical ones built around the First Nations Governance and Public Administration certificate — “the backbone” of the undergrad program, Richardson said.

It’s slated to include a capstone project in senior years that could be land or community-based and “required electives” pertaining to topics like language preservation.

New classes include Indigenous political thinking and the courses about the intersection of worldviews — the latter of which being a philosophy class, Richardson said.

The program will help prime students for positions in self-governing communities, First Nations in general, Indigenous law, etcetera, he said — the sky’s the limit, because expertise in this area is necessary in the public sector.

“It’s hard these days, I would say, to be employed in any level of government where you’re not having to consider relations with Indigenous peoples in Canada,” Richardson said.

Cynthia James, a citizen of Carcross/Tagish First Nation, said she wants to bring back new ideas learned in the program to her community, bolstering it even more.

Having earned a certificate in First Nations Governance and Public Administration, she wants to take it a step further.

“I see that importance to serve,” James said. “It provides innovation and is also current. We’ve talked about where we’ve been and how we got here, so this is where (as First Nations people) we’re going.”

As a graduate of the college-level First Nations governance program, she said she got to advise how the degree was formed, guiding it along and offering suggestions.

“I really like the freedom of being able to dream, and dream big when it comes to our self-government. I feel that self-government is a personal realization that transcends into my membership,” she said.

As for Richardson, he said helping to bring the program to fruition has been the most rewarding experience in his life to date.

“This is the first degree independently credentialed by a Northern college in Canada. It’s a big deal, not only for the college, but the territory,” he said.

Contact Julien Gignac at julien.gignac@yukon-news.com

Correction: An editing error resulted in the original story misstating how many students are expected to take the program. The News regrets the error.

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