As the new director of the Four Directions Aboriginal Student Centre, Janice Hill believes she can help connect aboriginal students, faculty and staff with the larger Queen’s community.
“When I started at Queen’s 20 years ago, one of my mentors called me a culture broker,” says Ms Hill, who previously worked at the Faculty of Education for 10 years. “I interpret aboriginal culture for non-aboriginal people and I explain non-aboriginal ways to aboriginal communities.”
There is a sense of renewal around the Barrie Street centre with a new director and ongoing renovations to the first floor. An open house is planned for the end of September, but in the meantime, Ms Hill is busy consulting staff and planning for the year.
“The staff members got to revisit the good work they have done here. We identified what we can build on and what should be reconsidered,” she says.
Ms Hill, a Mohawks of the Bay of Quinte band member, intends to continue the centre’s tradition of providing strong programming. She also wants to develop partnerships with community organizations that can support aboriginal learners at Queen’s.
Because of her own post-secondary education experience, Ms Hill knows the importance of an active aboriginal community within the university. While attending Trent University, she interacted with many aboriginal faculty and staff and benefited from indigenous services and programs.
“I am not sure I would have been successful without that community of likeminded people around me,” she says.
Ms Hill was hired by Queen’s in 1989 on a temporary basis. She consulted with aboriginal communities to determine how the university could assist aboriginal people pursuing post-secondary education.
The university identified a need for teachers at the community level; subsequently, the Aboriginal Teacher Education Program was born. Ms Hill stayed on with the Faculty of Education and the 10-day contract turned into a 10-year tenure.
She left Queen’s to start a private high school in Tyendinaga in partnership with First Nations Technical Institute. After five years, she became the academic dean at FNTI. Now she is back at Queen’s and excited about the opportunity.
“The centre can really play a pivotal role increasing people’s understanding and knowledge about aboriginal ways of knowing and providing a connection between aboriginal people and the larger Queen’s community,” she says.
More information about the centre and its programs can be found on its website.