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Breaking Down Barriers

By University Advancement and Communications Posted: October 4, 2021 10:00 a.m.

Donors are working toward truth and reconciliation in a way that supports Indigenous students at the U of R.
Donors are working toward truth and reconciliation in a way that supports Indigenous students at the U of R. Photo: Courtesy of Nadine Milne

To honour the spirit of Indigenization, and work towards reaching authentic truth and reconciliation, donors are engaging in philanthropy as a way of taking action. 

Standing firmly among them are former Regina businessman Dr. Kenneth Levene and Saskatchewan-born philanthropists Drs. Jill and Gordon Rawlinson C.M., S.O.M. 

Dr. Kenneth Levene, whose donation in 2005 saw the Kenneth Levene Graduate School of Business named after the philanthropist, has continued to support the advancement of the Faculty, including a $100,000 donation to the School with the vision to support Indigenous students. Thus, the Levene Indigenous Pathways Program was born. 

To steer this innovative program, a working group was formed, which included Nadine Milne, Lecturer with Hill and Levene Schools of Business. Milne is also the Program Lead, Indigenization for the Schools and graduate of the Master of Human Resource Management Program through Levene.  

“We decided that the best approach to provide recommendations on addressing the specific needs of Indigenous Levene students was to survey them, and alumni, directly,” said the proud member of George Gordon First Nation. “A few of the major themes that stood out from the survey were challenges associated with location, financial constraints, and inclusion issues.” 

Travelling from one’s community to receive an education can pose considerable challenges. Therefore, funding from Levene’s gift was used to create a state-of-the-art streaming studio, providing an opportunity for Indigenous, and non-Indigenous, students to attend virtual, live-streamed classes from any location. 

Contrary to a misconception that all tuition for Indigenous students is offset, the reality is that Band funding is limited, and only short term. In response to this issue, a portion of Kenneth Levene’s generous funding has been used to create the Levene Indigenous Pathways Graduate School of Business Award, which will support multiple Indigenous students over several semesters and help fill the unmet financial need gap. 

“The more people that understand the history and culture of Canada’s First People, and their importance in our history, present, and future, the better we can break down inclusion barriers and advance reconciliation,” said Milne. 

“That’s why part of the Levene Indigenous Pathways Program is now a requirement for all Levene students to complete 4 Seasons of Reconciliation, a multi-media training program that promotes a renewed relationship between Indigenous Peoples and Canadians.” 

“I think it’s important that everyone has the opportunity to receive a high-quality education,” said Levene. “The intention of the donation was to help pave the path for Indigenous students toward the completion of their program, and a successful career.”

Sharing their passion for empowering Indigenous students are Drs. Jill and Gordon Rawlinson C.M., S.O.M., who donated $100,000 to establish the Rawlinson Executive in Residence in Indigenous Entrepreneurship, also located in the Hill and Levene Schools of Business but with a reach across campus and federated colleges. The programming is intended to inspire and support Indigenous students in becoming entrepreneurs.

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FNUniv student and fitness centre
owner Jake Sinclair with Bradyn Parisian
BBA ’08, MBA ’13. Photo: Munz Media

First Nations University of Canada student and fitness centre owner Jake Sinclair is one of many students who benefitted from this initiative, and credits Métis business leader and Rawlinson Executive in Residence Bradyn Parisian, BBA ’08, MBA ’12 for helping him navigate the coronavirus pandemic. “Bradyn was able to introduce us to people in his corner who were able to use their knowledge of technology to help us out. He got us into an area where we could be strong,” said Sinclair. 

“We are very grateful for the generosity of Drs. Levene and Rawlinson. We all have a responsibility to take meaningful action in response to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action,” expressed Dean Gina Grandy. “We have a long way to go but we are listening and learning how best to fulfill our commitment, and these initiatives are important steps forward.” 

We invite you to read the 2020-2021 Donor Impact Report, which shares who some of our donors are, why they give and what mark they leave on the world – a world that is truly better because of their philanthropy.

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Donor Impact Report