Unama’ki College of Cape Breton University, under the leadership of Lindsay Marshall, will formally assume the tasks and responsibilities previously performed by the Mi’kmaq College Institute (MCI) as of July 1, 2010. Marshall will serve as Principal of Unama’ki College
The transformation of MCI into Unama’ki College will signify greater autonomy and increased resources that will allow it to realize CBU’s commitment to Aboriginal education more effectively. In addition, Unama’ki College will be home to a new cross-disciplinary academic department that will enable full-time and part-time faculty members to raise the profile of Indigenous Studies within the university and in the communities of Unama’ki and beyond.
“This new academic department will allow full-time faculty members in different disciplines – such as Mi’kmaq Studies (BA) and Integrative Science (BSc Community Studies) – to cooperate closely on mutual concerns, and to exercise more clout and independence within the university,” says Rod Nicholls, Dean of Arts and Social Sciences at CBU.
Nicholls, who will serve as interim Vice-Principal Academic for Unama’ki College, adds that part-time faculty, who are essential to the delivery of in-community courses, now have a supportive academic home and a venue in which their distinctive concerns can be addressed.
When the MCI was first created in 1998, there was intense discussion regarding the very concept of a Mi’kmaq College and what its goals should be. Over the years this discussion continued, and in 2007 CBU President John Harker asked Lindsay Marshall, then Associate Dean of the Mi’kmaq College Institute, to lead an Aboriginal Strategy Task Force with the responsibility to review 30 years of Aboriginal education at CBU and identify successes, ongoing challenges and potential directions for the future.
The transformation of the Mi’kmaq College Institute into Unama’ki College, based on the Task Force’s consultations with both the University and Mi’kmaq communities, tries to implement two key points on which there was a consensus: the need to better organize (and augment) the resources specific to Aboriginal student success and secondly, the need to invest greater academic autonomy for the College while at the same time increasing academic interactions with CBU as a whole.
Marshall believes this move will consolidate the successes of the MCI.
“As of July 1, Unama’ki College will be fully staffed and open for 12 months a year,” says Marshall. “The research capacity of the College will be immediately enhanced because the Mi’kmaq Resource Centre will now be staffed on a full-time basis. This isn’t a magical solution to continuing concerns on matters pertaining to Aboriginal education, training, research and community economic development, but it creates a frame-work in which they can be better addressed.”