Dec. 5, 2018

Meet the 2018-19 Ch'nook Scholars: Connecting Indigenous business students

Program links Haskayne students Richard Sparvier, Ben Cooper-Janvier and Mackenzie Beerbaum to community, business leaders and their culture
David Lertzman with the 2018-19 Ch'nook Scholars, from left: Ben Cooper-Janvier, Richard Sparvier and Mackenzie Beerbaum. Photo by Riley Brandt, University of Calgary

Ch'nook Scholars: Connecting Indigenous business students.

Riley Brandt, University of Calgary

“These are the future Indigenous business leaders in Canada,” says Haskayne faculty member and Ch’nook Fellow Dr. David Lertzman, PhD, as he talks about the students involved in the Ch’nook Scholars  program at the Haskayne School of Business. The program has supported 11 students over the six years it has been at Haskayne, made possible through a generous gift from TD.

The Ch’nook Scholars Program is for Indigenous post-secondary business students, connecting students to a network of other Indigenous business students as well as making valuable industry contacts. The Haskayne School of Business is the only location for Ch’nook Scholars outside of B.C.

  • Photo above: David Lertzman with the 2018-19 Ch'nook Scholars, from left: Ben Cooper-Janvier, Richard Sparvier and Mackenzie Beerbaum. Photo by Riley Brandt, University of Calgary

Richard Sparvier: Combining Indigenous knowledge with business

This is the second year as a Ch’nook Scholar for Sparvier, who is in his final year of general management with a minor concentration in Indigenous studies. Sparvier is also chief of the Indigenous Students’ Council on campus and is a vocal ambassador for the Ch’nook program.

Sparvier grew up on the Siksika Nation but attended school off-reserve in Strathmore. Post-secondary education is important to his family, with numerous family members including his grandmother being UCalgary alumni. To broaden his experience, he has travelled extensively to volunteer and work with many non-government organizations around the world.

“Originally I didn’t want to take Indigenous studies,” says Sparvier. “I live the experience every day.” He changed his mind after taking his first course in the Aboriginal Student Access Program.

“I took the time to realize and understand the underlying reasons why problems exist in Indigenous communities.”

Now by using the skills he is learning in business, the network he has developed as a Ch’nook Scholar, and the knowledge he has gained from his teachings, he looks to see “how can I use business and culture to help bring Indigenous people to a better place.”

Ben Cooper-Janvier: Connecting to accounting career

Although his best course was calculus when he was in Grade 12 at Henry Wisewood High School, Cooper-Janvier decided to take time off and work in construction at ATCO. There he met two mentors, one in his 50s and one in his 60s, and they both encouraged him to go back to school.

Originally thinking of engineering, he decided instead to put his math skills to accounting. He is also the CPA campus ambassador, visiting with potential students to tell them about his chosen field.

He is impressed with what he has experienced so far with the Ch’nook Scholars program at the fall gathering in early November. “The keynote speakers at the conference were from Deloitte and Accenture. They were able to bridge the gap between residential societies and everyone else,” says Cooper-Janvier. “It was really inspiring for me.”

Cooper-Janvier has lived in Calgary since he can remember. He is from the Cold Lake First Nations and came to Calgary when he was six months old. As the group were sharing educational backgrounds of their family, he mentioned that his father went to residential school. “The last one closed in 1996. It really wasn’t that long ago.”

Mackenzie Beerbaum: Making connections through Ch’nook Scholars

Beerbaum is the second in her family to attend post-secondary; her older brother is also a student at Haskayne. She is in year two of a general management major with a minor in Indigenous studies, choosing management because of the variety of career paths it offers. She chose her minor so she could expand her knowledge of her cultural history.

Beerbaum was born in Calgary but grew up in Loon River First Nation, one hour north of Slave Lake. When she was nine, she moved with her father and brother back to Calgary. It was not until she was a part of the Calgary Stampede Showband that she really had a chance to delve more into her Indigenous culture, an interest that continues in her current studies.

The Ch’nook Scholars has given her connection. She didn’t know Sparvier or Cooper-Janvier before the program, and it was so exciting to meet others at the fall gathering. “It was cool to see how quickly we connected. It doesn’t happen that often. It was because we all have a similar background,” says Beerbaum.

Ch’nook Scholars program

Based out of UBC Sauder School of Business, the Ch’nook Scholars program partners with institutions throughout British Columbia including Thompson Rivers University, UNBC and Vancouver Island University. The program complements post-secondary business education by developing leadership skills and business knowledge with mentorship for Indigenous business students. Fall and spring gatherings are hosted at UBC and provide a valuable face-to-face connection.

Although all three of the 2018-19 Ch’nook Scholars from Haskayne have a family member who has attended post-secondary, they note that many Indigenous post-secondary students do not, making the Ch’nook Scholars program an important network of support.

ii' taa'poh'to'p

On Nov. 29, the University of Calgary celebrated the one-year anniversary of its Indigenous Strategy, ii' taa'poh'to'p. Lertzman co-chaired community engagement for the Indigenous Strategy Task Force Working Group and now sits as a co-chair of the Academic Programs Sub-Committee with the ii' taa'poh'to'p Implementation Committee.

“Education is a cornerstone for reconciliation, and business has a key role to play,” says Lertzman. “Building on ii' taa'poh'to'p, initiatives like Ch'nook and Indigenized learning really role-model these efforts.”