Experiential education project for Indigenous students underway at UNB Saint John

387

The Baron sat down with the UNB-SRC’s first Indigenous student representative, Hayden Hovey, to learn about his project to make the campus a more inviting space for Indigenous students. 

Office of UNB Saint John’s Indigenous Advisor. (Ria Sabitry/The Baron)

What is the project? 

Hovey’s goal is to “improve social cohesion” among students and to bring better support to Indigenous students at UNB. The project is part of SOCS 4501: Campus as a Living Lab with Dr. Sarah King and comes after UNB launched the Indigenous self-identification form this week. Around two and a half per cent of the UNBSJ population openly identifies as Indigenous and Hovey is working to bring more support to them. 

He came up with three goals for his project: “…identify and advocate for the needs of Indigenous students at UNBSJ, increase support and resources for Indigenous students on campus, and improve social cohesion amongst the [UNB Saint John] Indigenous community”. 

UNB-SRC’s first official Indigenous student representative 

Being the first Indigenous student representative on the SRC has given Hovey a platform to advocate for Indigenous students’ needs on campus. This new representative brings visibility to Indigenous students and creates a point of contact for them. 

“[There are] so many different chairs and representatives and I just think it’s so important to see someone who comes from a similar culture or background who is on the student council and who takes their concerns seriously and uses that platform to really advocate for what they need,” Hovey says. 

Indigenous advisor Todd Ross 

UNB Saint John Indigenous advisor Todd Ross. (UNB/Website)

In 2021, UNBSJ recruited an Indigenous advisor, Todd Ross, who has served as Hovey’s supervisor for SOCS 4501. Hovey says that Ross’ support has not only benefited his project, but also other Indigenous students. 

“He definitely keeps me in line and constantly encourages me to go outside of my comfort zone,” Hovey notes. Ross accompanies Hovey to a lot of his meetings and provides support for projects like the drop-in space on campus and the bookstore collection.

Hovey highlighted Ross’s work in developing the Saint John Indigenous Health Advisory Circle that works to connect “…students, educators, elders, First Nations, and healthcare systems such as Horizon Health to come up with ways that we can make healthcare more accessible and culturally relevant for the Indigenous community”. 

The benefits of experiential learning

Photo of former SOCS 4501 student Jennifer Moore at an experiential learning showcase in 2021. (Emily Wheaton/The Baron)

SOCS 4501 has been more engaging and involving than Hovey anticipated but he is grateful for the components of self-reflection in experiential learning. He was able to attend a conference in Fredericton that discussed issues faced by the 2SLGBTQ+ and BIPOC communities.

The conference taught Hovey a lot through exchanging experiences with discrimination at UNB campuses and brought together calls of action for UNB campuses to put in place in order to create a better environment for vulnerable communities. 

Hovey has been thankful for the opportunities that these projects have brought, noting that he has “…never been around so many people who looked like me and came from similar backgrounds as me”.  

To learn more about experiential learning at UNB, click here.