By Tonaya Marr
Matthew Pasqua wandered into the Aboriginal Student Centre on his first day of classes at the University of Regina four years ago. A student with an undeclared major, Pasqua found guidance, support and confidence through his involvement with the centre, leading him to choose political science as his major.
Between 50 and 60 students visit the centre daily, according to Maureen Jory, administrative assistant for the Aboriginal Student Centre. And while visitors like Pasqua are always welcome, the small space is getting crowded.
Now some relief may be on the way. After requesting more room from the University of Regina, the centre has been given a portion of the first floor of the Research and Innovation Centre, in addition to their existing space in the College West building. The new space is expected to be open by the winter semester.
Close to 1,200 self-declared First Nations students are attending the university as of Sept. 4, according to Thomas Chase, U of R provost and vice-president.
“What we’re trying to do is serve the needs of that population in new ways,” said Chase.
“(More space) has been something that the Aboriginal Student Centre has asked for and expressed need for, for a significant amount of time,” said Misty Longman, manager of the student centre.
The centre is a place where students are able to hang out, discuss homework and deal with the troubles of education. Pasqua, who is preparing to take his law school entrance exam, attributes much of his success to his participation in the student centre, and considers himself a role model for current and future students.
“(Other students) want to go into law now, or consider law, or some other professional field,” said Pasqua. “I feel like I set a good example for them and am someone to look up to.”
The extra room will allow the centre to offer an in-house Elder to students, along with a variety of other cultural practices that were previously missing in the limited space.
“University can be a really stressful place, and to have someone who has the patience and is provided the time to actually sit with our students and have conversations that are meaningful … makes a huge difference,” said Rachel Janzé, program coordinator for the centre.
The College West space will be turned into a seminar room with space for 40 students, while the new space in the RIC will comfortably seat 50 students in a quite lounge area, work station space and computer area.