Indigenous students at Vancouver Island University are getting more space to call their own.
Their current gathering place at the Nanaimo campus – called Shq’apthut – is being expanded after the announcement of funding from the school and the province. The school bills Shq’apthut as “a home away from home for Indigenous students, where cultural, academic, recreational and social activities are promoted and celebrated.”
The province has given $3.3 million to support the project, with VIU chipping in another $417 thousand to make its just over $3.7 million budget.
The added space will provide elder-in-residence offices, more ceremonial space, and other amenities. This is to support an increasing number of indigenous students at the school, which has grown by 11-percent since 2018. Those students now make up 12-percent of the school’s 12-thousand student population.
Natural resource management student James Beardy says the space has been integral to his learning experience.
“For me, Shq’apthut has been a place where I feel like I belong, a place with familiar faces. It’s been key to my academic success because I cannot achieve my full potential unless I’m comfortable where I am, and that space has helped me get comfortable,” says Beardy.
Construction is slated to begin in spring 2023 with upgrades expected to be completed a year later.