As a Student Learning Coordinator at the UBC Learning Exchange I am lucky to work in a dynamic community like the Downtown Eastside and create opportunity for UBC students to understand some of the assets and complexities of our neighbourhood.
Since the fall, we have been working on our student orientation materials which we use with student employees, volunteers, and students learning about the Downtown Eastside in their courses. We were fortunate to receive funding from the Office of Equity and Inclusion through the Equity Enhancement Fund to make our materials better reflect the good work being done by Indigenous communities and organizations in the Downtown Eastside. In creating these materials, we identified a need to build our team’s capacity to support students engaging with this new content. We asked ourselves, “if we’re going to be talking to students about vital and innovative Indigenous-led activities, what do we need in order to do so effectively and respectfully?” Really it was also an opportunity as a team to consider on our own role in decolonization.
We reached out to Erin Yun from CTLT Indigenous Initiatives. After exploring our needs and learning more about what we do at the Learning Exchange, Erin and Amy Perreault tailored material from the II Design Series and custom designed a workshop on positionality and place. They came to our location in the Downtown Eastside (quite early on a Friday morning) and facilitated the workshop with our whole staff team.
The workshop was wonderful. It offered the opportunity for each team member to consider their own work contexts and the stakeholders they routinely engage with which included academics, Downtown Eastside community organizations, UBC students, people accessing our free community programs, and more. Personally, I found it provided the space for me to connect my role developing these student orientation materials and my work when speaking about the Downtown Eastside. I was able to examine how as a settler I am a guest on Musqueam, Squamish, and Tsleil-Waututh territories (among others in my time in Canada) and similarly I am asking students to be respectful guests in the Downtown Eastside. Being able to reflect and make these connections which I can bring to conversations with students and immensely valuable. On top of the learning I gained I appreciate the time and attention Erin and Amy put into understanding our needs and facilitating the morning’s training in an engaging and inclusive way. Since this great experience I’ve attended other CTLT workshops organized by Indigenous Initiatives and have encouraged my colleagues to do the same.