Nov. 20, 2017

Ch'nook Scholars select three 'amazing' Indigenous students from Haskayne

British Columbia-based program develops leadership skills and business knowledge
Assistant professor David Lertzman, third from left, stands with students Richard Sparvier, Joshua Haley, and Katrina Harding-Saddleback.

David Lertzman, third from left, with Richard Sparvier, Joshua Haley, and Katrina Harding-Saddleback

Riley Brandt, University of Calgary

Three Indigenous students from the University of Calgary have been selected into the Ch’nook Scholars Indigenous Business Education program, giving them a unique opportunity to connect with Indigenous business students from other post-secondary institutions.

Ch’nook Scholars is an extraordinary program for Indigenous students that is shared by business schools across universities of British Columbia. The Haskayne School of Business is the only chapter outside B.C. The program complements post-secondary business education by developing leadership skills and business knowledge. Selected on a combination of community service, character, leadership capabilities and academic standing, Ch’nook Scholars are Canada’s future Indigenous business leaders.

“The nice thing about Ch’nook is that it’s not like it’s one year and you’re done,” said fourth-year student Joshua Haley, a Metis BComm student who was also a Ch’nook Scholar last year. “It could be 10, 15 years down the road and you still have that network available to you. I think that’s a very valuable thing. They’re incredibly smart and entrepreneurial. There are people two years younger than I am and they’ve started multiple businesses already.”

Haley and fellow students Katrina Harding-Saddleback and Richard Sparvier are the 2017 Ch’nook Scholars from the University of Calgary. The university students will also be meeting with Indigenous high school students, a task that Harding-Saddleback is looking forward to. She spent 14 years working at Encana in various administrative roles including working in Aboriginal relations and doing outreach with high school students.

“It’s eye-opening as to the opportunities that are out there for Indigenous business graduates,” said Harding-Saddleback, a member of the Doig River First Nation in B.C.  “If you aren’t aware of what’s out there, and how obtainable they are, you just don’t know, so this makes it an invaluable opportunity.”

Haskayne faculty member and Ch’nook Fellow David Lertzman was blown away by the quality and number of applications. “We have three amazing Ch’nook Scholars this year.”

The university’s Indigenous Strategy is a major priority at the University of Calgary where a task force has just completed 20 months of effort and launched the new strategy ii' taa' poh' to' p on Nov. 16. Lertzman co-chaired community engagement for the Indigenous Strategy Task Force Working Group and said the Ch’nook Scholars program is important for Haskayne and the university.

“Education is a cornerstone for reconciliation and business has a key role to play. Building on the Task Force, we’re developing our own Indigenous strategy at Haskayne,” said Lertzman. “Initiatives like Ch’nook role-model the kind of efforts called for by Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission.”

The students have recently returned from Vancouver and the first gathering of the year for the scholars.

Richard Sparvier, of the Siksika Nation, said the trip meant he got to learn about different Indigenous perspectives in business. “I think it’s a great initiative for indigenous business students. I otherwise wouldn’t have had the opportunity to network with,” said Sparvier.

“I hope to learn more about where I stand as an Indigenous person in business. I hope to grow my network and meet a lot of like-minded individuals and hopefully inspire some new individuals who want to get into business.”

The University of Calgary unveiled its Indigenous Strategy, ii' taa' poh' to' p, on Nov. 16. The strategy is the result of nearly two years of community dialogue and campus engagement, and involved the work of a number of people from the university, Indigenous communities and community stakeholders. Recommendations from the strategy will be implemented in the coming weeks, months and years as we move forward with promise, hope and caring for the future.