The B.C. Ministry of Advanced Education provided UFV with a one-time grant for the purpose of hiring an indigenous transitions coordinator for the 2016-2017 year. The role of the coordinator is to assist Aboriginal students with admissions, academic and support services, peer support, and mentoring. The purpose of having this position is to ensure that Aboriginal students are provided with a fair chance to find success at university while combating the declining retention rate that the Indigenous Student Centre (ISC) has experienced over the past years. This is where Betty Peters steps in.
Peters has been working in the ISC for the past six years, providing support for Aboriginal students and Elders alike. Before that, she served as an Aboriginal program teaching assistant in the Chilliwack school district.
Despite sharing a very similar title with Student Life’s student transitions coordinator Belinda Karsen, Betty’s job is unique. Unlike Karsen, Betty Peters has a vastly smaller pool of new students that she is responsible for. Her goal is to establish contact with each new student and have some form of a personal relationship with them in order to help students find both academic and personal success in their first year of university.
“I think it’s an important position to have,” Peters said. “I want to empower students.”
Not only is Peters responsible for being the front-line support for Aboriginal students, but she is also tasked with providing outreach to Aboriginal communities and visiting local high schools to meet the fresh faces of potential new students.
Many freshmen face a culture shock to some degree during their initial months at university, but it can be even harder for an Aboriginal student. Challenges such as filling out grant applications for your band, homesickness, and for some, a sudden change in culture make the freshmen year out to be a daunting experience.
Trena Point, an Aboriginal student, has been at UFV a little over two years. She has completed upgrading her courses and is ready to tackle more schooling.
“It took me a few attempts to learn what works best for me. Only now have I found a successful strategy for studying,” said Point.
She has been a part of the ISC since its old location in A building, and has often found herself there between classes, whether it was to eat, learn about resources, or even nap on the couch.
Point has found that the ISC has played a role in helping her transition into university.
“They helped out with my grant applications, as I was so unsure what to do,” she said. “Without them, I wouldn’t likely be applying for grants, or learning about different resources. They helped me settle in.”
As the fall semester carries on, more and more Aboriginal students can be seen in the ISC that is located in the Student Union Building (SUB), and Peters has big shoes to fill this year to provide the much needed support to Aboriginal students.
“Welcome to the Indigenous Student Centre,” Peters would often say to new students. “You’ll be seeing me more than your family while you’re in university!”