Northern-Led Leadership in Higher Education

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The following Op-Ed was published on March 20, 2017 on the MUN Gazette, as part of a special feature celebrating and recognizing the contribution and impact of Aboriginal Peoples in N.L. and highlighting contemporary topics and opportunities related to Indigenous Peoples worldwide. This theme coincides with Aboriginal Peoples Week 2017: Building Reconciliation taking place at Memorial from March 20-24.

Research in the North has too often focused on answering the questions that the South has about the North.

Increasingly, Northern organizations, governments, researchers, and communities are calling for more leadership when deciding how research and education will be conducted, what research is a priority, and how funding will be controlled and allocated.

This changing academic landscape requires Northern-embedded institutions that can support this transition, and work towards greater sovereignty in higher education in these locations.

With the current federal focus on science, innovation, the North, and renewed relationships, now is the time to enhance already-present institutions to create research and educational strategies that reflect Northern, Indigenous, and remote contexts.

By the North, for the North

One of the unique attributes of the research and educational landscape in Labrador is the presence of the Labrador Institute of Memorial.

“As one of the few university-based units located in the Canadian North, the Labrador Institute occupies an important space in the country’s higher education landscape.”

The Labrador Institute was established 38 years ago with the aim of bringing the resources of Memorial to Labrador and the voices, ideas, needs, and priorities of Labrador to the university.

As one of the few university-based units located in the Canadian North, the Labrador Institute occupies an important space in the country’s higher education landscape, and holds tremendous potential for Northern-led intellectual leadership, high quality educational opportunities that meet local needs and priorities, and innovative research that can make tangible impacts for people and communities.

We are nimble and responsive, and reflective of a different way of understanding and conceptualizing what higher education can do and mean in Northern and Indigenous contexts.

Our commitment to place

Over the past months, I have been leading a strategic revisioning process at the Labrador Institute with the aim to refresh and reframe our activities in Labrador and to ensure that institutionally, we grow and transform within the changing context of Northern leadership and self-determination, including Indigenous Peoples.

“We will be guided by and work in partnership with the three Indigenous governments to strive to decolonize our research, education, and institutional structures.”

Our newly-emerging collective vision is to be a leading public centre of research, education, outreach, and policy, by and for the North.

We are located on the traditional homelands and territories of the Innu and the Inuit, and will be guided by and work in partnership with the three Indigenous governments to strive to decolonize our research, education, and institutional structures, while remaining responsive and committed to place.

Throughout this process, we are reclaiming what it means to be a Northern-based research and education centre, and how higher education can and should be different in the North.

We are striving to create land-based and interdisciplinary graduate programs and educational offerings that are offered in and reflective of the North, and open spaces for key dialogues and leading-edge research.

We are creating research hubs that collaborate on Northern priorities such as food systems, changing environments, marine resources, community health, culture and languages, resource development, and governance and determination.

And we are working to expand the infrastructure and resources in Labrador to support this vision and contribute to intellectual richness, diversity, and leadership in the North and across the country.

Responsibility in a time of reconciliation

These are exciting times with much hope and optimism in the North, and it is imperative we respond with thoughtful and timely support through higher education.

The North will provide essential leadership and, by doing so, will have the opportunity to realize sovereignty in research and education, led by the North, for the North.

As Newfoundland and Labrador’s only university, Memorial takes seriously its special responsibility and commitment to meeting the needs and priorities of the province, including in the North.

As one of the only universities with a full-time presence in a Northern location, Memorial and the Labrador Institute are strongly positioned to continue to be at the leading edge of Northern-led research and contribute to growing research capacity, infrastructure, and partnerships to create positive social changes with lasting impact in the region.

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