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Maple League International Offices Awarded $800,000 to Collaborate on Decolonizing Education Abroad

Updated: Jan 26, 2022

December 1, 2021 – Member institutions of the Maple League of Universities have received a Global Skills Opportunity grant of $800,000 to develop and launch a program for Indigenous students to participate in an international experience together. The program is called “Nation to Nation: Building Indigenous Knowledge Across International Borders”. Three cohorts of students from Acadia, Bishop’s, Mount Allison, and St. Francis Xavier University will come together to have a short-term study abroad experience in Belize through Galen University in the spring 2022, 2023, and 2024 terms, focusing on sharing their Indigenous experience and learning about other Indigenous cultures abroad. This grant covers all expenses in an effort to reduce barriers for Indigenous students who would like to have an education abroad experience. Dr. Jessica Riddell, Executive Director of the Maple League, shares “The future of higher education must include deep and meaningful collaborations across sectors so that we can build more inclusive, equitable and just systems for all students. A key pillar of this inter-institutional partnership is a commitment to inclusive high-impact projects and high-quality undergraduate education for all students; by working together the International Offices are leading national conversations around decolonizing education abroad.” Global Skills Opportunity is a national outbound student mobility program that is expected to enable more than 16,000 Canadian college and undergraduate-level university students from across the country to acquire the global skills employers want and the Canadian economy needs. A key component of the Government of Canada’s International Education Strategy, Global Skills Opportunity is funded by Employment and Social Development Canada and is administered jointly by Colleges and Institutes Canada and Universities Canada. “Global Skills Opportunity is breaking down financial, social and logistical barriers that have prevented too many underrepresented students from participating in global study and work opportunities” said Paul Davidson, President of Universities Canada. “Through this ambitious and ground-breaking program, thousands of young Canadians will have transformational experience abroad. Their newfound global perspective and skills will inform the way they live and work for decades to come.” As a part of this Maple League-supported project, students will attend Galen University to have an immersive two-week experience that combines in-class teaching, field trips, community engagement, and group and individual reflection. Students will receive academic credit for their experience. The group will travel to multiple locations around Belize to learn about the Yucatec, Mopan, Garinagu and K’eckchi cultures of Belize. Guest speakers and visits to cultural sites will form the basis of this immersive learning journey. Sherry Gibbs, Dean of Faculty of Arts, Science & Technology at Galen University notes, “Galen University is excited to partner with the Maple League of Universities on this important cultural exchange program. We look forward to sharing Belize’s rich Indigenous culture and heritage with Indigenous students from Canada with the hope of developing connections to various Indigenous ways of being. As an academic partner, we work with various community members to provide students with important context and knowledge often overlooked in the national development discourse. We hope to spark a relationship by providing an insight into the long and vibrant histories, struggles and lives of our various Indigenous communities.” Chair of the Maple league President Council, Dr. Peter Ricketts states, “This grant is a great example of the power of the Maple League, with the four-member institutions working together to create exciting new opportunities for our students. International education experiences are transformational for students, and this initiative is especially so, given its emphasis upon decolonization and engaging Indigenous students from Canada and Belize in an extraordinary immersive learning environment. I can’t wait to hear the experiences of the students who will benefit from the opportunity that this funding provides.” By working together on this short-term study abroad program focused on Indigenous cultures in Belize, the institutions will also build their capacity to support other education abroad activities, create effective wraparound supports, and build their ability to work as a consortium on international initiatives. Larissa Strong, Internationalization Director from St. Francis Xavier remarks, “This project will be some of the most dynamic work we will do in education abroad in our institutions. It is a meaningful contribution to reconciliation and provides an opportunity to critically reflect on and decolonize the long-held understandings of students learning internationally. It will also allow the Maple League to build a robust platform for future education abroad activities with effective risk management and the intentional development of intercultural competencies.” The dynamic network leading this initiative is Michael Holmes (International Admissions and exchange Officer, Acadia), Annick Corbeil (International and Student Life Manager, Bishop’s), Tina Gjertsen (International Student Success & Global Learning Coordinator, Bishop’s), Robin Walker (International Affairs Coordinator, Mount Allison), and Larissa Strong (Internationalization Director, St. Francis Xavier). The Maple League is proud to support their work on this reconciliation initiative that will enhance our capacities for student experiential learning and advocacy. This field school experience in Belize for Indigenous students will provide richly transformative learning experiences and inter-institutional community building, in both local and global contexts. For more information about the program and how to apply visit the Students page on our website. About the Maple League The Maple League is made up of four universities – Acadia, Bishop’s, Mount Allison and St. Francis Xavier – who together form an alliance of immersive, primarily undergraduate liberal education institutions with Francophone heritage and a commitment to truth and reconciliation with Indigenous communities. By fostering reciprocal relationships across institutional boundaries, we provide extraordinary opportunities to transform as leaders, scholars, and institutions. The Maple League creates distinctive learning environments that ensure our graduates are capable of navigating an increasingly complex world as citizens and leaders dedicated to the values of a just and civil society. For more information, visit our website: For more information, please contact: Dr. Jessica Riddell Executive Director, The Maple League of Universities Stephen A. Jarislowsky Chair of Undergraduate Teaching Excellence Full Professor, Department of English, Bishop’s University 3M National Teaching Fellow (2015) Lauren Boultbee Strategy & Advancement Lead, The Maple League of Universities – Sherri Turner Director, University Communications Acadia University – Sonia Patenaude Interim Communications Manager, (May 31- December 31, 2021) Bishop’s University – Robert Hiscock Director of Marketing & Communications, Mount Allison University – Kyler Bell Director of Marketing & Communications, St. Francis Xavier University – Click here to view the press release as a PDF.

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