Alberta University of the Arts launches indigenous peer mentorship program

2019 AUArts Indigenous Student Mentors

Alberta University of the Arts (AUArts) launched a new mentorship program for their Indigenous students. The program will offer first-year Indigenous students at AUArts access to older students and Elders in the community to support their academic, personal and cultural growth. ​On Monday, September 23, 2019, AUArts representatives were joined by members of the AUArts Elders Council, key internal stakeholders, student mentors and mentees of the program and Elder Casey Eagle Speaker who spoke about the importance of the program to launch the ​Aahwaatkamooksi Peer Mentorship Program in their Lodgepole Center.

Aahwaatkamooksi is a Blackfoot word translating in English to ‘creating friendships.’ The goal of this program is to provide specialized, holistic support to Indigenous students to reduce attrition rates and create leadership opportunities while increasing overall educational attainment in art, craft and design education.

“Aahwaatkamooksi was set up to provide leadership and a sense of belonging, as many students enter an environment unknown to them, as it is a take away from cultural connections,” said Elder Casey Eagle Speaker, AUArts’ Elder Council. “This program is meant to connect new students to mentors to guide and provide support on their journey in AUArts. The goal is to gain retention and successful completion of their endeavours, to have a sense of belonging and connection.”

AUArts’ Elder Council
Left to right: Elder Casey Eagle Speaker; Elder Darryl Brass Jr.; Elder Linda Brass; Elder Ruth Scalplock; Elder Francis Melting Tallow; Elder Paul Daniels. Missing: Elder Edmee Comstock 

Experienced senior Indigenous students (mentors) will be paired with first-year Indigenous students (mentees) to support collaborative learning and help them with their transition to post-secondary education. ​Mentors have trained through a comprehensive and holistic training process, which will enhance their educational experience and foster leadership.

The ​Aahwaatkamooksi Peer Mentorship Program was made possible through the generous funding of Suncor Energy Foundation, who sponsored the creation of the Lodgepole Center at AUArts. 

The Lodgepole Center gathering place celebrates its third anniversary this year.