Unique work exchange receives BCCIE award


- Joy Poliquin

UVic co-op student Lisa Schnitzler spent a term at RMIT University in Australia.

UVic’s unique Indigenous International Work-Integrated Learning Exchange Program—the first of its kind in the world—has been awarded the 2019 British Columbia Council for International Education’s (BCCIE) Award for Outstanding Program in International Education for its high-quality and highly creative programming in international education.

The UVic program connects Indigenous students studying at our university with Indigenous-focused work experiences in Australia.

The annual awards program, now in its 10th year, recognizes outstanding achievements in the field of international education in BC.

BCCIE awards on June 25, 2019
Representatives from UVic at the BCCIE awards on June 25, with (on left) Laurie Brucker from the Ministry of Advanced Education, Skills and Training.

A unique work-integrated learning exchange

As the first known work-integrated learning (WIL) exchange of its kind, the Indigenous International WIL Exchange Program was launched in 2015 through a partnership between the university’s Co-operative Education Program and Career Services (Co-op and Career) and UVic’s Office of Indigenous Academic and Community Engagement (IACE), with funding from the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Scholarships Fund.

The program facilitates a hybrid work/academic exchange for Indigenous students at UVic, as well as Indigenous students at the University of Newcastle, Macquarie University and RMIT University in Australia.

UVic co-op students complete work terms with Indigenous centres at these institutions, while incoming Australian students take part in UVic’s LE,NOṈET student success program and complete a community-engaged learning experience.

Gaining hands-on work experience can enrich students’ academic experiences and foster intercultural connection—two facets that are important to UVic. We’re proud of the experiences that students have gained and of the partnerships we’ve built. 
—Karima Ramji, UVic’s international co-op program manager

To date, six UVic students and two Australian students have taken part. Five more Australian students and one more UVic student will participate in the exchange by May 2020.

UVic student Lisa Schnitzler participating in a Gubbi Gubbi ceremony in Australia
UVic co-op student Lisa Schnitzler, who spent a WIL term in Australia, participates in a cleanse led by one of the Gubbi Gubbi men with whom she worked.

One of the UVic students, Lisa Schnitzler (Indigenous studies and English), is from the Métis Nation BC and spent a term at RMIT University where she conducted research on reconciliation.

She says (of the photo above), “They snuck this photo of me during a song with singing and the didgeridoo—it was so special, I will never forget it.”

This exchange gives Indigenous students the opportunity to contribute to projects that connect to reconciliation and Indigenous experience.
—Lalita Kines, manager of IACE who co-led the program’s launch with Ramji and Norah McRae, UVic’s former executive director of Co-op and Career

Community engagement as a key ingredient

A key element of this exchange is Indigenous community engagement—through LE,NONET, students receive intercultural training to prepare themselves to engage in their experiential learning terms in a good way, and are responsible for initiating a community-based project outside of their work.

LE,NONET Academic Manager Rob Hancock and LE,NONET Experiential Learning Coordinator Renée Livernoche have developed programming to support students from both institutions as they take part in the exchange.

Some of my most valuable experiences were just being on the land and having a first-hand learning experience in terms of Indigenous culture there. I learned so much about Indigenous peoples’ experiences in Australia and how they closely parallel ours here in Canada.
—Jackson McDermott, a Dene and Cree student from UVic who participated in the exchange
Watch a video about Jackson and Tami’s experience overseas

The Queen Elizabeth Scholar connection

Development of the Indigenous International WIL program has been made possible with funding from the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Scholarships program, a partnership between Universities Canada, the Rideau Hall Foundation and Community Foundations of Canada, with financial support from the Government of Canada, provincial governments and the private sector.

Learn more


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Keywords: Indigenous, international, co-op, award

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