Advisors from across BC post-secondary institutions unite to engage and support Indigenous students

By Public Affairs | September 10, 2020

Aboriginal Services Jewell Gillies
Jewell Gillies, Executive Board Chair for Strengthening Connections

Strengthening Connections, an Indigenous recruitment initiative for post-secondary institutions in British Columbia, will have a whole new look and feel this fall.

As post-secondary institutions across the province have geared up for remote or alternative delivery for fall semester, recruiters have also made the switch to a virtual world, notes Jewell Gillies, who currently serves as Executive Board Chair for Strengthening Connections and works in Aboriginal Services and Student, Grad and Co-op Employment at Okanagan College.

“Strengthening Connections is about providing Indigenous learners with the opportunity to engage with Indigenous recruiters from both the post-secondary institutions and also many employers across the province as well,” says Gillies. “Our goal is to create a safe space for Indigenous community, to share with them the vast opportunities in education and careers that are available to them, and to provide guidance on how to access these opportunities.”

Strengthening Connections was formed in 2006 with a core group of Indigenous recruiters and advisors from several BC post-secondary institutions with the mandate to provide Indigenous Peoples in BC with the information they need to successfully pursue post-secondary education.

Since then Strengthening Connections (SC) has grown to include all major universities in BC along with a number of colleges. Although Strengthening Connections members hail from individual institutions throughout BC, they work as a team collaboratively to assist those they serve in finding the best options for them.

Strengthening Connections Logo

“In typical years, the members of SC would travel as a cohort across the province, visiting high schools and Indigenous communities to promote awareness and engage folks in dialogue to showcase how their Indigenous identity is not only valued at these institutions, but needed in order to continue the work of Reconciliation and decolonizing educational systems,” explains Gillies.

“This year, we hope to reach more Indigenous communities than ever with our virtual recruitment ‘tour’, utilizing technology to reach every remote area in the province, as well as hosting two national recruitment events,” says Gillies. “There will be 24 institutions and/or employers represented in this virtual career fair this year, the most representation we have had for any of our recruitment years. Indigenous community members will be able to connect directly with our recruiters through virtual chat sessions, and download any information they need on a specific institution to better inform them on their opportunities.”

“While the experience will look different this year, the feeling will remain the same, our recruiters focus on exemplifying our core values as a collaborative: Culture, Community & Relationships, Collaboration, Compassion and Empowerment,” says Gillies.

To find more information on when the virtual tour will be in your area, or to connect with the Executive Board for Strengthening Connections please contact Board Chair Jewell Gillies (they/them) at

Tags: Indigenization



Sign up for weekly stories


Kinesiology student Kurt Albrechtsen
Meet Kurt Albrechtsen, Kinesiology student

March 4, 2021

Q: What’s your hometown? A: I’m from Williams Lake, located in the Cariboo region. Q: How did you end up at Okanagan College? A: I originally made my choice to come to OC by the recommendation of a friend who had attended previously and had a wonderful experience here. Q: How did you choose your program? A:  After playing rugby and soccer all through my life, and having experienced injuries from both, as well as other activities like mountain biking and boxing, I found that it was...

Xiaochen Yang, OC School of Business student
OC students get primed for financial success

February 16, 2021

A local partnership with a non-profit company, Launch Financial Education Society (Launch Okanagan), is powering up to help Okanagan College students boost their financial literacy this spring. Starting March 2, OC students will benefit from a free financial literacy program hosted online by Launch Okanagan. The Primer for Life series is an interactive, five-week program that offers students a chance to learn about their relationship with money, consumerism, budgeting, saving and credit. A number of Okanagan College Business students are al...

Experience OC Online
Experience OC takes post-secondary explorations virtual

February 5, 2021

Experience OC, from the safety of home. The College’s premiere participation event for prospective students is making the leap to the online world, with virtual Experience OC sessions launching next month. Starting Feb. 16, College professors will welcome prospective students, parents and employers in for program overviews or a glimpse of what a post-secondary classroom is like. Participants will get a first-hand look at the topics covered in these programs, including sustainability, Indigenous and technological issues facing the world tod...

Empowering Employment
Empowering Employment: College to host virtual employment fair in Feb

January 18, 2021

Okanagan College is powering up a new virtual employment fair next month to help connect students, alumni, job seekers in the community and employers from across the region. Empowering Employment is a virtual career fair to be held on Thursday, Feb. 4 from 10 a.m. – 3 p.m. Anyone interested in attending as a job seeker or showcasing their business as an exhibitor can learn more at Exhibitor space, although virtual, is still limited and so interested organizations should plan to register soon to ensure their sp...