March 10, 2023

Grant embeds Indigenous ways of knowing in SAPL’s first bachelor’s degree

Financial contribution from real estate foundation to diversify industry, better prepare future professionals
Final presentation of the Fall studio titled Interchange.
Instructors Hall Eagletail, centre (wearing black hat), and Fabian Neuhaus, to the right, at the final presentation of the fall studio. School of Architecture, Planning and Landscape

Through a $120,000 grant to the School of Architecture, Planning and Landscape (SAPL), the Alberta Real Estate Foundation (AREF) aims to take tangible steps toward reconciliation, while using that positive momentum to strengthen real estate-related professions and the province’s real estate industry overall.

The grant, which is in support of SAPL’s Indigenous Pathways Program, will enable Alberta’s only accredited school of architecture to grow the number of First Nations, Inuit and Métis students entering the design professions, while embedding Indigenous ways of knowing into the Bachelor of Design in City Innovation (BDCI) — the school’s first undergraduate degree.

The program’s two-pronged approach will see SAPL work toward bringing more Indigenous students into architecture, planning, landscape architecture, land development, finance and construction, and embedding Indigenous ways of knowing and Indigenous subject matter into the BDCI.

As a result, the program aims to introduce more Indigenous people to the design professions, areas where they are drastically under-represented, while allowing Indigenous ways of knowing to shape the program, to inform these professions, and to prepare practitioners, and the industry as a whole, to better deal with challenges such as the climate emergency, inequity and social injustice.

“This project elevates real estate leadership in our province through inclusion, representation, and professional standards,” says Alberta Real Estate Foundation Executive Director Patti Morris.

“As a foundation, we have the responsibility to explore how our funding programs can be a vehicle for reconciliation in our province. We are honoured to invest in the education and empowerment of Indigenous leaders in real estate and related professions.”

Indigenous ways of knowing

School of Architecture, Planning and Landscape Prof. Brian Robert Sinclair

The principles supported by this gift are at the core of SAPL’s values and beliefs, says Joshua Taronsaid, the school’s associate dean (research and innovation).

“Introducing Indigenous pathways to the design-based curricular and research activities of SAPL is essential to our mission as a school and consistent with our deeply held commitment to inclusion, equity and design justice,” he says.

Funds from the grant will allow SAPL to undertake course development that incorporates, and abides by, Indigenous ways of knowing and doing, to carry out community outreach, and to recruit Indigenous students, sessional instructors and full-time staff.

To boost recruiting, SAPL will use the AREF grant to host Indigenous design workshops for high school students, as well as other direct outreach activities, intended to raise awareness with Indigenous students about the potential for a career in a real estate-related field. The grant will also be put to use in course development, with the school working with knowledge keepers and Indigenous experts to incorporate Indigenous world views into the BDCI program.

Mutual respect and co-learning

These actions will ensure that Indigenous people are not only better represented in these fields, but that all students graduating with a BDCI degree will have the benefit of a more rounded understanding of community, the land and the built environment, says SAPL Dean John Brown, adding that this approach acknowledges that the two systems of knowing — Indigenous and non-Indigenous — stand side by side with an attitude of mutual respect and co-learning.  

Meaningfully including Indigenous people’s unique perspective, and their inherent recognition of the importance of land and place, can situate all of our future students to be better informed, and become more thoughtful practitioners.

“With AREF’s support, BDCI graduates will be equipped to employ a more holistic approach to tackle critical emerging issues around creating more sustainable, equitable, healthy, vibrant, and prosperous cities,” he says.

“Cities are the primary engine of innovation and economic growth. Cities are also one of the largest contributors to climate change and the site of significant social inequity, systemic racism, and economic disparity that threaten our collective and individual well-being.

“In short, this proposal helps create a pathway for Indigenous youth to meaningfully participate in Alberta’s real estate-related industries and to ensure that all SAPL graduates have a better understanding of Indigenous ways of knowing in order to more sensitively and effectively address the unprecedented challenges of an increasingly complex future.”

The Alberta Real Estate Foundation has made this contribution as a one-time grant.

Created under the Alberta Real Estate Act, the Alberta Real Estate Foundation is a non-profit organization that makes strategic investments, forms partnerships, and supports initiatives that benefit Albertans through the real estate industry. 

Since 1991, the foundation has invested $27.5 million in nearly 700 initiatives across Alberta. The initiatives it funds advance and improve real estate-related education for professionals and consumers, law reform, and research, and seek innovative industry and community solutions. 

A stronger real estate industry is a stronger Alberta. 

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