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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Bending the box : learning from Indigenous students transitioning from high school to university Parent, Amy


The purpose of this study was to understand how the unique social, historical, cultural, and Indigenous knowledge contexts of Aboriginal communities in British Columbia shaped high school to university transitions for Aboriginal youth. To this end, the Northwest Coast bentwood box acted as a metaphor that framed the theoretical inquiry and methodology for this study, which examined four Aboriginal Early University Promotion Initiatives (AEUPI) and three Aboriginal University Transition Programs (AUTP) in British Columbia. In addition, I utilized Archibald’s (2008) storywork and Kirkness and Barnhardt’s (1991) 4Rs of Indigenous methodologies, with an additional 5th R (relationships). The study also drew upon Martin Nakata’s (2007) concept of the cultural interface, to analyze 32 interviews conducted with Aboriginal youth, and faculty and staff from the AEUPIs and AUTPs. Key findings from the Aboriginal youth in this study suggest that learning about university through real-life experience offered by the initiatives/programs was meaningful. Second, both the AEUPIs and AUTPs provided youth with concrete opportunities to explore future academic and career pathways. Third, ensuring that the youth were provided with opportunities to develop relationships with positive Aboriginal role models in the university was seen as a success factor. Fourth, the AEUPI youth shared stories about the important leadership skills they developed as role models and mentors to younger youth in the initiatives, which in turn assisted them with their visioning process for university. Fifth, the students’ sense of belonging at university was fostered by relationships with AEUPI and AUTP staff, Indigenous student support staff, Elders, and faculty. Sixth, the AEUPI youth overwhelmingly agreed that the experiences they had in these initiatives led them to feel wholistically successful. However, the AUTP youth had a conflicting experience. Ultimately, insights from the youths’ stories suggest that the future of AEUPIs and AUTPs is a promising one if universities take heed. To this end, all participants in the study critically detailed how Canadian universities can apply a wholistic conception of the 5 Rs to Indigenous high school to university transition programs.

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