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RBC Future Launch partners with University of Regina to support career-related work and leadership development opportunities for Indigenous students

By University Advancement and Communications Posted: September 27, 2021 10:30 a.m.

Taylor Soderberg, a third year Human Justice student attending First Nations University of Canada who has accessed programming through the Neekaneewak Leadership Initiative.
Taylor Soderberg, a third year Human Justice student attending First Nations University of Canada who has accessed programming through the Neekaneewak Leadership Initiative. Photo: UAC

National Truth and Reconciliation Week is starting today, and the University of Regina and the Royal Bank of Canada (RBC) Future Launch program are partnering to mark their shared commitment to advancing truth and reconciliation by announcing a generous gift to support Indigenous students at the U of R. 

RBC Future Launch is committing $500,000 to support two key programs at the U of R that assist Indigenous students as they further their educations, serve their communities and work towards launching their careers. Many of them have accessed support services offered at the ta-tawâw Student Centre including the Neekaneewak (“they are leading”) Leadership Initiative (NLI) and the Full Circle Internship program (FCSI). 

One such student who is an active participant in the NLI is Taylor Soderberg, a third year Human Justice student attending First Nations University of Canada, and who has a passion for social justice and supporting Indigenous and LGBTQ2S+ communities. 

The pursuit of her passions is supported by being involved in the NLI, an Elder-based leadership program that enhances cultural awareness and develops leadership skills in student participants through traditional and current ways of knowing. 

“At ta-tawâw, everyone is welcome and inclusion is a big thing especially in NLI because we want to make sure everyone can be part of some kind of leadership initiative, and with the initiatives there are a lot of streams that relate to Indigenous issues and help students keep in touch with their culture,” said Soderberg, a Métis student. 

The NLI has four streams that are key to leadership development outcomes, including personal, academic, professional and cultural. Now in her third-year, Soderberg now helps others advance in each stream by serving as a student advisor with the student centre. The leadership team is also composed of Elders, alumni, and other senior students who provide culturally relevant programming, mentoring, and leadership development opportunities. The team is also a campus-wide resource fostering greater understanding and appreciation of Indigenous perspectives and traditions. 

“We are involved in a lot of different programming that happens within the centre such as helping run programs for first-year students, scholarship workshops, counselling sessions, library sessions, beading sessions,” Soderberg said. “We also have Flow Through Fridays, where everyone gathers to talk about how everyone’s studies are going and if anyone needs help.” 

Supports within the NLI program are used to prepare Indigenous students to participate in career-related work experiences, which have been facilitated by the Full Circle Summer Internship Program – a program that has seen the placement of 775 Indigenous students in career-related internships since its inception in 2006. 

'We’re honoured to partner with U of R to bring the promise of RBC Future Launch to life for Indigenous students here, as we are across the country,” said Don Morris, RBC Regional Vice President, Southern Saskatchewan. “While research shows that Indigenous youth face unique challenges when readying themselves for their careers, the NLI program has a successful track record of serving the needs of Indigenous students. Ensuring the leaders of tomorrow have equal opportunity today is critical to building more inclusive companies and communities that can achieve their greatest potential.” 

“We are fortunate and proud to continue our purpose-driven partnership with RBC to help Indigenous students achieve academic and professional success,” said Dr. Jeff Keshen, University of Regina president and vice-chancellor. “Together, we are building a better and more inclusive and equitable world by advancing truth and reconciliation through the support of Indigenous students seeking a stronger understanding of their personal identity, and a sense of belonging within their communities and culture.” 

RBC is additionally committing to lead sponsorship of the NLI awards ceremony. The awards were established in 2017 to acknowledge and celebrate Indigenous students who are developing and practising skills and knowledge as leaders who benefit our community, and to recognize those who support and contribute to student leadership experiences, development, and their overall success.

“It’s really nice to see that people are recognizing that we can do a lot here,” Soderberg said. “There is a lot that can be supported, especially programming for Indigenous students. For people to be able to learn about leadership and to be supported in their academics, but especially about their culture, I think that’s super important.”