Saturday, April 19, 2014
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First Nations University looks to plot course for the future

"Strategic plan" focuses on recruitment, retention, fiscal issues

Reported by Adriana Christianson (Regina)

The First Nations University of Canada (FNUC) is hoping to turn over a new leaf, thanks to a long-term plan that will set the future of the school.

On Tuesday a new offically strategic plan for the school's future was released. It sets goals for the future of recruitment, retention and financial responsibility at FNUC.

“We’re in a period of I think stability and growth and that’s a lot different than where we were two years ago,” said the school's acting President Juliano Tupone, who is also serving as vice-president of finance. He was referring to a controversy over management that caused the provincial and federal government to briefly pull funding to the institution.

Tupone said that, to his knowledge, this is the first time the university has had a strategic plan that sets out specific goals and how to meet them. One short-term goal for the administration is to regain control over the finances for the school, which are currently under the direction of an outside administrator.

“Hopefully next year to do away with that and have control of our finances back at the university with continued oversight and management by the University of Regina,” Tupone said.

He explained that the school administration has done a lot of work to create consistent policies for staffing and managing resources, for example ensuring that courses are financially viable. A plan to recruit more students across the province by offering more communit-based programs on or near rural and northern reserves should help boost enrollment and help out the bottom line.

“We need to take programing and education out to communities wherever we can, wherever it’s fiscally possible,” Tupone said. “It’s difficult for students to leave their communities to gain an education so we’ve seen a high demand for community-based programs.”

FNUC recently hired a program coordinator to make connections with students on rural and northern reserves and to figure out what resources would be required to make those programs a reality. One example is the Bachelor of Indigenous Education program, which is being offered in partnership with Parkland Regional College in Fort Qu'Appelle.

“We’re running some arts and sciences first year courses out on Onion Lake Cree Nation near Lloydminster. We’re finishing up a bachelor of indigenous education in Black Lake Saskatchewan in the far north and we recently in September started a program out in Piapot First Nation.”

Out of 750 full-time students enrolled with FNUC 100 are taking courses through community-based programs. Tupone hopes to see enrollment in those programs double by next year.

In the past year total enrollment increased by 15 per cent. Tupone believes it’s quite possible to grow by that many students again next year.

The institution is also concentrating efforts on outreach for students as young as 12 to encourage them to think about post-secondary education.

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