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NWCC to Host Second Annual Challenging the Paradigm Conference

This June, Northwest Community College (NWCC) continues on its transformative journey to indigenize the culture and practice of post-secondary education as it hosts the second annual Challenging the Paradigm conference. In October 2007, the College organized the inaugural Challenging the Paradigm conference to examine how Aboriginal and mainstream teaching practices could be enhanced to heighten learner access and success. The hope for the first conference was to broaden the dialogue between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal leaders and educators to encourage real change within post-secondary institutions, says Stephanie Forsyth, NWCC President. There are many barriers to higher learning for students, particularly Aboriginal students, states Forsyth. This conference gives educators and those responsible for post-secondary education in their communities, the opportunity to challenge their views about education and discuss best practices in an effort to improve the success rate of learners. The BC governments Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on Aboriginal Post Secondary Education, signed in 2005, supports the efforts of the conference and the College. This MOU calls for transformative change involving the re-creating of existing institutions. In the fall of 2007, NWCC created the House of Learning and Applied Research to continue the dialogue that emerged from the first annual conference and to support the goal of enhancing Aboriginal learner success. Since then, HLAR, working with Aboriginal organizations and First Nations communities, has worked to enhance employees understanding of Aboriginal culture and practices to better meet the needs of learners attending the College. Our approach to this work is based on respecting Aboriginal values and needs, acknowledging their traditions and cultures, celebrating their worldviews and working closely with Aboriginal communities, said Jim McDonald, HLAR executive director. This approach is providing the College community with tools for not only generating culturally responsive curriculum, but also with the tools to re-examine our deep seated beliefs around curriculum delivery, college systems, processes and operating practices. Challenging the Paradigm 2009 will focus on community engagement, innovations in teaching, and an examination of how post-secondary institutions might redress colonization. By bringing Aboriginal scholars and leaders together with other educators in the post-secondary system, the conference will provide a forum for college/institute educators, researchers and administrators to share ideas and innovative approaches to post-secondary education for Aboriginal learners. The June 21-25 summer gathering will feature keynote speeches from an exceptional group of prominent Aboriginal leaders, including Grand Chief Ed John, Professor Leroy Little Bear, and Professor Lorna Williams. Challenging the Paradigm 2009 will be opened by Lieutenant Governor of British Columbia, His Honour, Steven L. Point as part of the National Aboriginal Days celebration in Terrace. The opening reception will take place at the REM Lee Theatre, June 21 at 7 p.m. For further information about the conference and how to register, go to: http://www.nwcc.bc.ca/HLAR/Gatherings.cfm

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