Humber College’s new Dean of Indigenous Education and Engagement (IE&E), Jason Seright, had been teaching for seven years when he first decided to become an administrator back in 2000.
“I had some frustration in what was going on in Indigenous education. Why was change taking so long? I felt I could have a lot more impact and see more change at the administrative level,” he said.
Seright is Métis, with Dene and Cree ancestry. His early years were spent in Buffalo Narrows and Isle La Crosse, Saskatchewan. He grew up in Saskatoon. Teaching brought him further West, and eventually, he found himself in the central Albertan community of Maskwacis.
“I was at a school that didn’t have graduates for more than 30 years. Students weren’t coming to school. I wanted to see an increase in enrollment and graduates,” he said.
“We need to retain them to ensure they have a good future.”
By the time he left the school, more than 50 students had graduated.
He increased graduation rates in Kelowna, too, where he later worked as a district principal of Indigenous education.
Seright then made his way back to Saskatoon and heard Saskatchewan Polytechnic was looking for a Director of Indigenous Strategy.
He felt he had done what he could at the K-12 level and saw the position as an opportunity to promote change on a larger platform.
His six years of experience at Saskatchewan Polytechnic shaped a vision that focused on student success and building a strong foundation for education and engagement. By the time he left to become Dean at Humber, this vision was well-implemented and yielding positive results for Saskatchewan Polytechnic.
‘It’s a never-ending journey’
Seright’s hope is to work himself out of a job one day, having implemented great and lasting change.
“That means there isn’t a difference in education. There is no gap between Indigenous graduation rates and non-Indigenous graduation rates and we have Indigenous content braided throughout post-secondary institutions and education,” he said.
“But it’s a never-ending journey.”
He was impressed with Humber’s leadership and commitment to Indigenous culture and history. He stepped into the Dean position with the belief he could assist and support the college in its initiatives and take them to a higher level.
Seright recognized the community engagement and student success strategies Humber already had, including the personal support offered to Indigenous students.
“They created a plan that focused on community engagement and looked at student success and their health and wellness. They created a plan to work with the whole student, not just the academic side.”
Mentorship and community have long been central to what is now the Indigenous Education and Engagement department, and with Seright at the helm, it will continue.
Seright was hired earlier this year to provide leadership in support of Humber’s 2018-23 Strategic Plan commitment to expand and enhance Indigenous programming, methodology, research, practice and delivery.
He also works with internal and external college partners to meet Humber’s commitments to the national Indigenous Education Protocol and on Humber’s ongoing response to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action.
“It shows commitment. Humber made the decision to bring a dean in at a high level, then hired an associate dean, Regina Hartwick and an acting manager, Quazance Boissoneau. They’re adding a couple different coordinators, a student advisor, a counselor, a curriculum specialist,” said Seright.
He says there are still more positions to fill and backfill.
“That was so important because some places hire a top position and don’t give any thought as to what support is going to be provided to them.”
Seright’s impact on Humber has been felt through initiatives like cultural education training for Humber employees, with most on track to complete the course by the end of the Summer 2021 semester.
“It’s the foundation of everything we want to do here,” said Seright.
Throughout November, IE&E is running activities for Indigenous Education Month.
The first week of November brought Treaties Recognition Week, where the department and Humber Libraries highlighted resources to support treaty education and acknowledged treaty rights, responsibilities and relationships.
Later in the month, Indigenous Education and Engagement will host Part Three of the Indigenous Speaker Series, which will focus on Indigenous masculinity.
A major event for the department, the annual Indigenous Knowledges Gathering will be virtual this year. It brings together students, educators, practitioners and members of Indigenous communities and provides a safe space to think about and engage in meaningful conversations about the role and responsibilities of education.
The Gathering is held not only for the enhancement of outcomes like graduation rates, but also for the health and wellness of the broader communities involved.
To conclude the month, the department will host an Indigenous Movie Café featuring the movie Colonization Road. Those interested in attending the post movie discussion can email Kevin.Vose-Landivar@humber.ca for more details.
To learn more about Indigenous Education Month and the Indigenous Education and Engagement department, visit Humber.ca/Indigenous.