July 15, 2008 12:40 ET

Aboriginal Gathering Place to be Built at BCIT's Burnaby Campus

Location to provide culturally appropriate space for Aboriginal student growth and development

BURNABY, BRITISH COLUMBIA--(Marketwire - July 15, 2008) - Through funding support from the Ministry of Advanced Education (AVED) and the Aboriginal community in British Columbia, the British Columbia Institute of Technology (BCIT) will begin the development of an Aboriginal Gathering Place on its main Burnaby Campus in March, 2009. With completion scheduled for the following August, the renovation will include reconstruction of 92 square-metres of indoor space on the South West corner of campus, and approximately 186 square-metres of outdoor space. The renovated areas will provide space for offices, Elder meeting rooms, a student lounge, outdoor garden area with a fire pit, sweat lodge, and a mini longhouse for ceremonies and celebrations.

"The Aboriginal Gathering Place will provide a culturally appropriate place for both Aboriginal students and BCIT in general," says Jim Mitchell, director of Student Services at BCIT. "The idea here is to build space that highlights and promotes understanding and cultural values of our Aboriginal Peoples. The new space will speak strongly to diversity, sharing of Aboriginal culture story-telling, and providing assistance to our Aboriginal students. It will embrace all aspects of Aboriginal culture, both in our offices as well as out."

Design and layout of the project will be in partnership with the Aboriginal community to provide the artwork and cultural aspects of the interior decor, the landscaping, and the installation of the fire pit and sweat lodge.

Part of a BCIT institutional Aboriginal student-strategy, the Gathering Place is aimed at continuing to support and build relationships within the BCIT Aboriginal community. Through this service, BCIT has developed an Elder program in support of students, as well as an Aboriginal student lounge and computer lab area. The Burnaby Campus is home to a sweat lodge that schedules regular opportunities for Aboriginal students, staff, and other members of the BCIT community to experience and understand some of the cultural values and teachings of the Aboriginal community.

"This is a huge step forward and will provide our students with a 'home away from home', a sense of belonging, a place to share our culture, and a gathering place to feast and celebrate our success," says Joanne Stone-Campbell, coordinator of Aboriginal Services at BCIT. "The outdoor space and longhouse will tear down old beliefs and build new bridges within the BCIT community. We want students to know that education is a path that will open many new doors, create opportunities, and provide a great sense of pride."

BCIT Aboriginal Services works closely with staff, students, and communities to enhance Aboriginal learner's participation and success rate within the polytechnic environment. For further information, call 604-432-8474 or visit http://www.bcit.ca/aboriginal.

Contact Information