Regina Leader-Post with Vianne Timmons 22 September 2019
Building partnerships that bring more education opportunities to Saskatchewan’s northern communities is something University of Regina President Vianne Timmons believes is an obligation for the institution.
“We are a provincial university,” she said. “We need to serve the whole province and the north is so tremendously underserved, and they have so many needs.”
To continue creating these opportunities, Timmons and a small group of university officials visited Birch Narrows Dene Nation, Clearwater River Dene Nation, Flying Dust First Nation, Meadow Lake, Wollaston Lake and La Ronge from Sept. 18 to 20 for the university’s Community Connections Tour. In each community, the group had a chance to tour the schools and meet with community leaders, educators and students.
Timmons said this annual tour is a way the university can develop partnerships with northern and remote communities to bring the post-secondary education they need right to them.
Something Timmons said she hears in every community is the difficulty their young people face in travelling south to go to university. Having grown up in a small community in Labrador that was only accessible by plane, Timmons recognized the importance of giving people the option to further their education in their home communities.
“They leave their support network, they leave their culture, financially it’s very expensive,” she said.
“I know. I lived it, and anything we can do to support furthering education, to support young people, it changes lives.”
Following this tour, Timmons said the university will be looking into potentially developing a nursing course in Birch Lake Dene Nation. This course would bring in U of R nursing students along with an instructor for a few weeks to train at the local health centre — giving students a taste of what working in a northern community would be like and hopefully draw some back to work there permanently.
Another idea that surfaced was to establish a business certificate program in a northern community that is geared toward municipal and band governance.
“They’re saying that to hire people with accounting or business experience in the communities is very tough … so that’s one we’ll explore,” said Timmons.
“That’s the type of opportunities that come out when you go to these communities and you listen and you learn.”
The U of R currently has three standalone programs being offered in northern communities and several others offered in partnership with local institutions. These include a liberal arts certificate program in Pinehouse and a Cree teacher education program in La Ronge in partnership with the La Ronge band and Gabriel Dumont Institute.
Vianne Timmons is the president and vice-chancellor at the University of Regina.