New program a pathway for Indigenous environmental leaders

A setting sun peeks out from behind a forested mountain range.

A unique new program at Royal Roads University offers Indigenous students the opportunity to launch their professional or academic careers in environmental leadership – without leaving their home communities.

The Certificate in Indigenous Environmental Leadership Pathways is the first of its kind in Canada, says School of Environment and Sustainability Prof. Leslie King. The free pilot program is designed with and for Indigenous learners; it’s entirely online, so students can study in their own time and in their own communities.

 “This program takes issues like climate change, biodiversity loss and access to safe drinking water and trains leaders to address these critically important problems in their own communities,” King says.

Importantly, Indigenous knowledge, values and worldviews are embedded in its design to consider more effective responses to environmental issues, King says.

“We’ve never done that before.”

A springboard for new opportunties

It not only trains new or existing environmental leaders, the certificate is a springboard into other post-secondary degree and post-graduate programs.

Once complete, graduates can apply their credits to other post-secondary programs across Canada including Royal Roads’ Bachelor of Science and Bachelor of Arts in Environmental Practice programs.

“It’s really designed to serve Indigenous communities in a way that post-secondary education hasn’t done before,” King says, adding that it’s designed for working students and will accommodate those who have family or community obligations as well.

“We really want to see everyone succeed,” she says.

Michael Lickers, an associate faculty member and one of four instructors in the program, echoes that sentiment, saying success is possible, no matter students’ educational background, or how much time has passed since they last sat in a classroom.

“It’s beautiful to see people coming into courses for the first time who have either been away from school for a very long time or who had been disconnected from it. They get all panicky and stressed but as soon as they get into, it’s almost like you can’t stop them,” he says.

The certificate program includes four consecutive courses that run August 2022 through June 2023. The first three asynchronous courses are followed by a final practicum, where students work directly with an organization to address environmental issues in their nation or community. Students will have access to a supervisor, an academic advisor and a $1,000 grant to help with costs provided by the Environmental Careers Organization of Canada.

Royal Roads Director of Indigenous Engagement Asma-na-hi Antoine says the program, and the work of these students, is critical to addressing urgent environmental challenges.

“This is a pathways program into some of the urgency we see on Mother Earth, that urgency we see in building relations, that urgency we see in wanting to do things in the right way and walking together,” she says.

Applications for the Certificate in Indigenous Environmental Leadership Pathways program are being reviewed on a first come, first served basis through July 24.

The Government of Canada-funded pilot program, which is offered in partnership with the ECO Canada, has 20 seats available in its first offering. Students must be no more than 31 years old, with a high school diploma or two years of paid or unpaid environmental work experience.

To apply, send this completed application form and a letter of reference from a community member to the School of Environment & Sustainability. For more information, download the program overview or watch the webinar.