Introducing a First-of-its-Kind Partnership

First Nations schools in Manitoba face a shortage of child psychologists. There is an ever growing need for increased capacities and improved services in this area. Now, MFNERC and the Werklund School of Education at the University of Calgary are seeking to fulfill this need. Fourteen First Nations students from Manitoba will soon begin a three-year Master of Education in School and Applied Child Psychology (MEd SACP) degree. They will pursue their graduate studies while remaining in their home communities. Many of the 17 courses are a blend of online and in-person programming. The cohort will meet on the UCalgary campus this summer, and again for their practica during the next two spring terms. In turn, Werklund School instructors will teach in Manitoba throughout the year.

Provost Dru Marshall with MFNERC Executive Director Lorne Keeper during the signing ceremony (photo courtesy of the Werklund School of Education)

“The cohort model works well for our First Nations students,” explains Lorne Keeper, executive director of MFNERC.  “As groups share the same goals, dreams, and struggles, they quickly become one large family wherein they provide support and encouragement to one another.  No one gets lost in the process.” As a partner, MFNERC will help monitor student progress and build measures to ensure student success.

Dr. Erica Makarenko, Werklund’s academic coordinator for the MEd SACP program, describes the conscious effort being made to incorporate Indigenous ways of life and of being into the program.  “We want to ensure we’re doing justice to Indigenous knowledge, including consultations with Indigenous scholars and those of Indigenous backgrounds. It’s really about greater authenticity, so that it’s not us prescribing everything, but rather bringing indigenous knowledge into the course design process.” 

Signing ceremony round dance (photo courtesy of Werklund School of Education)

The official signing ceremony between the University of Calgary and MFNERC took place on Wednesday, March 28th. It was a wonderful celebration of the new partnership and, as MEd SACP student Tanya McDougall concludes, “There is a need for First Nations school psychologists, and I am thankful that the cohort students, MFNERC and U of C can work together. I am thankful we can train as clinicians from a First Nations perspective.”  

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