Media Release | Nov. 20, 2012

Largest class of Aboriginal doctoral students graduate from UBC Faculty of Education

Eleven Aboriginal doctoral students will graduate from the University of British Columbia’s Faculty of Education this year – the largest number to graduate from an education faculty in any Canadian university in one year.

“A doctoral degree is always a significant accomplishment, but the success of these eleven students is particularly meaningful because of the impact they will have in the community,” says Jo-Ann Archibald, associate dean of Indigenous Education. “We have made it a priority to provide students with the opportunity to learn about and do research using aboriginal knowledge perspectives to address pressing issues and now we are seeing the results.”

The graduates pursued research in areas where there has been very little or no research: indigenous language learning, leadership in postsecondary education, intergenerational learning, Aboriginal children in care, prison education, and Aboriginal family violence, intervention and healing.

“My graduate work has given me a sense of belonging and an understanding of the role I can play as a leader, mentor and representative of my community,” says Donna Lester-Smith, whose PhD research was about healing the wounds of family violence with indigenous traditional holistic practices. “The support and encouragement I got through this program allowed me to move forward as an academic and contributor to this field.”

NB: Donna Lester-Smith is available to speak to media. Five of the students will be graduating during UBC’s Fall congregation ceremonies on Wednesday, Nov. 21 at 12:30 p.m.

Lester-Smith and her peers developed ground-breaking culturally responsive research methodologies that will be used in future investigations.

The Faculty of Education aims to increase the number of undergraduate and graduate educational opportunities through new programs and mentorship of both Indigenous and non-Indigenous faculty members. Including this year’s graduating class, 43 Aboriginal doctoral students have gradated from the Faculty of Education in the past 20 years.


The Faculty of Education is a leader in Canada in the field of Indigenous Education. It works with Aboriginal communities and organizations to develop its strategy on Aboriginal education and engagement. All students learn about Aboriginal perspectives, issues, and culturally responsive learning approaches. UBC’s Teacher Education program includes a mandatory course on Aboriginal perspectives. With 11 tenured or tenure-track faculty members, the Faculty of Education also has the highest number of Aboriginal faculty in Canada. The 38 year-old Native Indian Teacher Education Program (NITEP) has graduated 358 Aboriginal educators who now work in Aboriginal communities throughout B.C. and elsewhere.

To celebrate its success and knowledge in this field, the Faculty of Education has made 2012-2013 the Year of Indigenous Education. The year is an initiative to create dialogue, share insights, and develop individual and cooperative actions to accelerate the success of Indigenous education. For more information, visit:


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Heather Amos
UBC Public Affairs
Tel: 604-822-3213
Cell: 604-828-3867



Donna Lester-Smith is one of eleven Aboriginal doctoral students graduating from the Faculty of Education

Donna Lester-Smith is one of eleven Aboriginal doctoral students graduating from the Faculty of Education

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