By Linda Scales
The University of Ottawa launched its Indigenous portal this week. Created at the request of Indigenous students, the portal aims to help Indigenous students succeed at university by providing access to tools and resources such as information on scholarships, how to use the library and community activities. The content was created by Kiera Brant and Tricia McGuire-Adams, two Indigenous students at uOttawa.
McGuire-Adams, a PhD candidate in the School of Human Kinetics, and Brant, a graduate student in education, consulted the faculties and services for content and then connected with the same groups afterwards to ensure the accuracy of the message.
“We first reflected on what resources we would like to see when considering uOttawa as a potential university as well as what resources we currently use as students,” says Brant (who is Haudenosaunee). “My hope is that the portal serves not only as a valuable resource for Indigenous students but also a resource for non-Indigenous students as a way of furthering their knowledge about Indigenous peoples.”
Also behind the development of the portal was Julie Gareau, communications officer for the Vice-President Academic and Provost. “We really wanted Indigenous students to be involved because it is their portal. It’s about their journey at uOttawa from beginning to end and everything in between,” Gareau says.
A lot of information was already available on the uOttawa website. However, “the goal of the portal was to have everything together in a one-stop-shop — everything from registration tools to information on cultural activities,” says Gareau.
Before being launched officially, the portal was evaluated by focus groups of Indigenous students who “could tell us if it contained the right content and if it had the right structure,” says Gareau. “The student associations also gave feedback to help make sure it is easy to navigate, is welcoming and has all the content students could think of or need.”
McGuire-Adams says that, as an Anishinaabe student at uOttawa, she felt there was a lack of Indigenous presence. “So, it felt rewarding to be directly involved in creating an important, Indigenous space on campus.”
Now that the portal is live, responsibility for its administration and content updates has been transferred from the Office of the VP Academic and Provost to the Student Academic Success Service (SASS), home of the University’s Aboriginal Resource Centre.