Introducing RRU’s Emerging Indigenous Scholars

From left to right: Tasha Brooks, Erynne Gilpin, Christine Webster and Shauneen Pete

Learn more about the Indigenous student experience at Royal Roads University


The Emerging Indigenous Scholars Circle at Royal Roads University is a first-of-its-kind program for those at the beginning of their academic careers. 

The Circle currently hosts three emerging scholars: Tasha Brooks is a scholar and assistant professor in the School of Business; Erynne Gilpin is working with the School of Communication and Culture as a scholar and assistant professor; and Christine Webster is a scholar and assistant professor in the College of Interdisciplinary Studies

Shauneen Pete is chair of the Circle and provides guidance and mentorship to all three scholars on a one-on-one and group basis, while also helping to expand a wider community of support for emerging Indigenous scholars across the country.


Tasha Brooks smiles in front of a natural background.

“There was an immediate feeling of ‘Aha! — this is what I was looking for,’ from the very second of stepping into the room with the other scholars and Shauneen,” says Tasha Brooks.

An “Aha!” moment 

Tasha Brooks is a member of Cowichan Tribes First Nation and was elected as a councillor in the spring of 2024. In addition to her work as an Indigenous Scholar and Asst. Prof. with the School of Business, Brooks is a Doctor of Business Administration candidate and is completing research focused on Indigenous entrepreneurship and entrepreneurial support ecosystems. 

Brooks made the decision to transfer to Royal Roads to complete her DBA because she saw the program as an opportunity to incorporate Indigenous Knowledge into her research — an inclusion that she says the advisory committee at her former institution did not support. 

When she saw the post for the Emerging Indigenous Scholars Circle, she applied right away, and when she started the new role, Brooks knew she was in the right place. 

“There was an immediate feeling of ‘Aha! — this is what I was looking for,’ from the very second of stepping into the room with the other scholars and Shauneen,” she says. 

Informal online networks exist where emerging Indigenous scholars from across Canada can provide advice and guidance, says Brooks, but rarely are scholars assigned a more experienced Indigenous mentor at their own institution. 

“If [Indigenous scholars] had this mentorship in addition to a nationwide support group, that would minimize their feelings of isolation within their institutions and help them to feel like they can trust somebody who has significant experience,” she says. 

“What a good mentor does – what [Shauneen] does – is provide me with the tools to empower myself, to create action, be contemplative, or encourage me to look inward for what I’m needing at the moment.” 


Erynne Gilpin smiles in front of a natural background.

“The idea of building relationships that feel safe within my work environment, through mentorship and coaching, is something that's transformational and revolutionary for me," says Erynne Gilpin.

Opening hearts and minds 

Erynne Gilpin is a Michif educator, filmmaker and community-based researcher, who focuses on land-based wellness practices, leadership and communicating place-based knowledge. She holds a PhD in Philosophy and Indigenous Governance from University of Victoria and is a director/producer with UATÊ STORIED LEARNING, a production company committed to educational film-based storytelling.

Intercultural and international communication and relationship-building are foundational to her work and identity, says Gilpin, who has lived in Central, South and North America and speaks English, French, Spanish and Portuguese. She also believes deeply in the power of storytelling through film and images, which is part of what brought her to RRU. 

When Gilpin came across the posting for the Emerging Indigenous Scholars Circle role, she was interested in the emphasis given to culturally relevant mentorship — something she had not felt in her past experiences working in post-secondary. 

“The idea of building relationships that feel safe within my work environment, through mentorship and coaching, is something that's transformational and revolutionary for me and something that I'm slowly and surely opening my heart to,” she says. 

In the School of Communication and Culture, Gilpin is happy to have found a community of people who care deeply about the power of storytelling. Her role allows for her strengths in filmmaking, learning, teaching and curriculum development to be used in tandem, Gilpin says. 

“I'm so grateful that Royal Roads has allowed me to land in a place where I can hopefully bring all those pieces together and do it in a way that feels enveloped in practices of care, respect and dignity,” says Gilpin. 


Christine Webster smiles in front of a natural background.

“Whether each of us realizes it or not, we’re also providing mentorship to each other, and we’re helping lift each other up," says Christine Webster.

Reclaiming a way of being

“ʔukłaasiš tup̓ałʔaqsa. ʔukłaasiš Christine Webster. histaqšiƛs nuučaan̓uł. ʕaaḥuusaqsupsiš. ʔuḥuks ʔaʔiič̓um Marion ʔuḥʔiiš Floyd Campbell Senior. nananiqsakmiqs Sarah ʔuḥʔiiš Andrew Webster Senior. ʔuḥʔanits naniiqsu ƛ̓aqiiy̓apʔat siičił.” 

On the path to reclaiming her ancestral language, Christine Webster introduced herself in Nuu-chah-nulth: “My ancestral name is tup̓ałʔaqsa,” says Webster. “My English name is Christine Webster. I am a Nuu-chah-nulth person. I am a woman from Ahousaht. I introduced my parents as Marion and Floyd Campbell Senior and my late grandparents, Sarah and Andrew Webster Senior, and just acknowledged that it was my grandparents who raised me.”

Webster graduated from RRU’s Master of Arts in Leadership program in 2019, when she successfully defended her thesis, Traversing Culture and Academy. In her thesis, she partnered with the School of Leadership Studies to hear from Indigenous students at RRU and offer guidance to enhance their experiences in the program. 

Now, in addition to her role in the Circle and teaching in the College of Interdisciplinary Studies, she’s working towards her PhD in Leadership Studies at UVic. Her dissertation delves into leadership models embedded in Nuu-chah-nulth ceremony, shares Webster. 

“My motivation is to reclaim Nuu-chah-nulth knowledge through this academic journey,” says Webster. “To, as best I can, identify Nuu-chah-nulth leadership models, add to the field of leadership studies by producing Nuu-chah-nulth material and when Nuu-chah-nulth students come to higher education, they can then access something that’s produced by one of their own and that’s recognizable to them.” 

The mentorship opportunity is what pulled Webster back to RRU and her position with the Emerging Indigenous Scholars Circle, and she’s found it in abundance, she says. 

“Whether each of us realizes it or not, we’re also providing mentorship to each other, and we’re helping lift each other up. Being siloed is not a natural environment for Indigenous scholars to fully thrive. So, being relational and interconnected, the Indigenous Scholars Circle has tried to replicate that natural environment where we’re collaborating and working together.”


Shauneen Pete smiles in front of a natural background.

“I just really hope to be a good auntie to these young scholars,” says Shauneen Pete.

A good auntie

Shauneen Pete, Chair of the Circle, finds the role incredibly rewarding, she says. After working as a professor and administrator in higher education for more than 20 years, she’s ready to take a step back and share her wealth of knowledge and experience. 

“For younger scholars to be able to [avoid] some of the contradictions and tensions of the experience many [Indigenous scholars] had, to stand on our shoulders and go a whole new direction, is really important,” says Pete. 

Raised by a family of teachers, Pete was encouraged to take the same career path, but her curiosity and passion for change kept her from stopping there. After completing a Bachelor of Education at University of Saskatchewan and starting her first teaching job, she was struck by how little educators were taught about Indigenous peoples, she says. 

“[School administrators] didn't learn about that,” says Pete. “They didn't learn about us in teacher training, they weren't learning about us in their master’s programs. So, there was a huge gap in leadership, and I thought: ‘Well, I guess I have to become a professor.’”

She did her doctorate at the University of Arizona, where her research, Kiskinawacihcikana (to leave trail-markers), examined how Indigenous women decolonize their faculty work, including their teaching, research and service. 

After a career spent blazing a trail for Indigenous scholars, it’s fitting that Pete now directly mentors the members of the Circle, as well as impacting hundreds of other emerging Indigenous scholars across Canada, through the Igniting the Flame webinar series. Pete developed the series to amplify the voices of Indigenous people in academia and provide a forum where emerging Indigenous scholars can listen and learn from their experiences. 

When it comes to her mentorship with the three scholars, Pete’s vision for the program is simple: 

“I just really hope to be a good auntie to these young scholars,” she says. “I hope I'm someone who is trustworthy, consistent, compassionate, supportive and does the heavy work of removing barriers where they appear — I just really hope to be a good auntie.”  


Reach out to Indigenous Student Services for more information on the Emerging Indigenous Scholars Circle and Igniting the Flame webinar series.

The Emerging Indigenous Scholars Circle is growing. Apply to be an Assistant Professor with the Emerging Indigenous Scholars Circle.