Partnership creates opportunities for students

NANAIMO – Ch’nook Scholars program tackles low participation rate of aboriginal students in business studies.

By Janina Stajic

Last month, 30 passionate aboriginal business students from across B.C. got together at Vancouver Island University’s Aboriginal Gathering Place, Shq’apthut, for a weekend event where they met with industry professionals, attended workshops and shared their experiences with the group.

All were part of the Ch’nook Scholars program, which was started in 2001 with the goal to address the low participation rate of aboriginal students in business programs.

Today the program supports students across B.C. with scholarship funds, workshops and opportunities to gather with other aboriginal business students.

In 2011, VIU’s Faculty of Management established a regional partnership with the Ch’nook Business Education Accord which is run out of the University of British Columbia’s (UBC) Sauder School of Business. Since then, eight VIU students have been recognized as Ch’nook Scholars.

One of those students, Bonnie Bergeron, is in her fourth year of VIU’s bachelor of business administration program and was at the March event.

“Being a part of the Ch’nook Scholar program and also this weekend, has made me realize there are a lot of leadership roles available on the island for aboriginal people and I look forward to getting out there and finding them,” said Bergeron.

“This weekend has also given me hope for our future as I see all these aboriginal business students who might have different goals and dreams, but who are all so supportive of each other that I know we’re going to be successful in the work we pursue.”

The other regional partners taking part in the Ch’nook program are Thompson Rivers University (TRU), the University of Northern BC and UBC.

Carl Archie is studying business at TRU and the weekend event was the first time he’d been to Vancouver Island.

For Archie it was a chance to network with like-minded people.

“I have a hard time talking about my world, the aboriginal world, with my fellow business students at TRU, so I really appreciated the opportunity to come to this event and talk to people who can relate to that world and who are also interested in business.”

Miranda Huron, program manager for the Ch’nook Program, felt the weekend was a great success.

“Seeing the confidence of the students and hearing the inspiring stories and future plans everyone has was definitely a highlight,” said Huron.

“I also believe the students walked away inspired with fresh takes on old ideas. The group had a chance to start talking through some of the challenges they face as Aboriginal students.”

The next Ch’nook Scholar Gathering will be held at the UBC First Nations House of Learning in fall 2013.

For more information, please contact Miranda Huron at chnookprogram or visit the website at