The Cultural Advantage: FNUniv Gives Social Work Students an Edge

Doris Wesaquate

Karen English says the cultural teachings at the First Nations University of Canada(FNUniv) and the support and guidance she received as a student were critical to her educational success.

Born in Inuvik, Northwest territories, Karen didn’t realize the extent of the cultural diversity within Canada – Aboriginal or otherwise. She says the instruction at FNUniv was an integral part of her learning experience.

Karen says some of her colleagues, most of whom lacked the cultural component of their education, make decisions for the children temporarily in their custody, based on appearance or religious beliefs. These are decisions they lack the qualifications to make.

“Even though they were aboriginal social workers, it just didn’t seem they were taking in [to account] any of the culture traditions of the family,” she says.

As a student, the one person that stands out for her was Yvonne House, a professor of Social Sciences.  House outlined in her course the impact of social work and its involvement with families, including the effects of foster care.

As a recovering alcoholic and single parent, the help and advice of the professors and Elders of the university was instrumental for her success in school and her career afterward.

These individuals made it clear to her that in her position as a social worker she was a role model’ and would have to set a good example for her children, her community, and everybody around her.

“That really struck home,” she says.

In 2007, Karen graduated with a Master of Social Work.

As a graduate, she understands the importance of this university for her and many others. And, Karen believes that as long as FNUniv has strong Aboriginal and culturally-educated professors, people will continue to thrive in its programs.

by Connor Donaldson