UBC Reflection for the Indigenous Graduate Summer Institute Program

The University of British Columbia (UBC) Indigenous Graduate Summer Institute brings together newly admitted and current Indigenous graduate scholars in an immersive one-week introduction to graduate studies, research and student success strategies.

Keely Walsh, PhD Scholar with the School of Health Sciences, Department of Social Work, MDHS shares her reflection of the program.

I was presented with an incredible opportunity as an Indigenous PhD student to visit Vancouver, which is the unceded land of the Musqueam peoples, to attend an Indigenous research program at the University of British Colombia.

The program was designed to bring together newly admitted and current Indigenous graduate students in a safe, inclusive and immersive one-week introduction to graduate studies, research and student success strategies.

The Indigenous Graduate Summer Institute is designed to specifically assist Indigenous students with gaining a further understanding and developing insight into the expectations and reality of entering into the research field.

At UBC there was an important focus on praising the outstanding contributions of the many Indigenous graduate students who are deeply engaged in scholarship that impacts Indigenous communities and the world around us. There were many Indigenous-focused programs and services on campus which support Indigenous graduate students that we were introduced to during the week.

One of the major highlights was accessing the centre of Indigenous Community on campus which is known as the First Nations Longhouse. We spent a majority of the week in the longhouse undertaking workshops and learning from elders, faculty members, peer mentors and keynote speakers, about topics such as how to strengthen relationships between students and supervisors, applying for grants and other funding opportunities, research methodologies, ethics and working collaboratively with community, as well as challenges and opportunities experienced by Indigenous people in academia.

For me, this opportunity far exceeded my expectations, as it allowed me to network, connect and grow with other Indigenous scholars at UBC. We were all able to contribute to discussions about our experiences of being Indigenous researchers and what it meant to us to acknowledge our histories, cultures and perspectives and how to integrate these experiences into our research objectives.

We all agreed about the importance of improving Indigenous knowledge and issues in the education system and how the lack of awareness of the historical and cultural heritage of Indigenous peoples requires an ongoing examination of beliefs, assumptions and bias that can shape and influence pedagogical practices as a way to continually ensure culturally responsive teaching and mentoring.

Attending this program felt like coming home, the amazing staff at UBC were friendly and accommodating and really put their hearts and souls into ensuring each and every student had an enjoyable experience.

We spent the week truly immersed in all things Indigenous, from the decolonising art tour all the way through to being invited onto the Musqueam reserve and visiting the Indigenous dialogue centre, museums, libraries and farmlands.

I would highly recommend attending this program as either a Masters or first year PhD student who is looking to lead the way for Indigenous scholars.

Written by PhD scholar Keely Walsh

UoM group photo, with Kirsten Hausia, Justin Wilkey and Keely Walsh facing the camera smiling

L-R: Kirsten Hausia with PhD scholars Justin Wilkey and Keely Walsh at UBC