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

By College Relations | September 10, 2020

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


Cam Egan hiking Mount Kaala with two friends
Meet Cam Egan, Biology Professor

March 8, 2022

Q: What is your name and role at Okanagan College?  A: Cameron Egan, College Professor in the Department of Biology  Q: What did you take at OC/OUC? When did you graduate? What campus did you attend?  A: I was enrolled in the Associate of Science program at the Vernon campus 2003-2005. This was during the transition years between OUC and OC.  Q: Why did you choose your program at OC?    A: Biology always fascinated me as a high school student. When starting my post-secondary educat...

Haley Chapman and Bailey
Meet Haley Chapman, Pharmacy Technician Student

February 28, 2022

Q: What is your name? A: Haley Chapman. Q: What program and year of study are you in at Okanagan College? A: I am in enrolled in the Pharmacy Technician Certificate Program and am about to enter my third month of classes. Q: Which campus do you primarily study at? A: The Kelowna Campus. Q: What drew you to that program?  A: I have been working as a Pharmacy Assistant for five years now and I wanted to further my knowledge and capabilities within the Pharmacy. I’ve fallen in lov...

Tara Laveay with her dog
Meet Tara Laveay, Therapist Assistant student

February 20, 2022

Q: What is your name/preferred name?   A: Tara Laveay   Q: What are your pronouns?    A: She/Her  Q: What program and year of study are you in at Okanagan College?    A: First year, Therapist Assistant Diploma   Q: Which campus do you primarily study at?    A: Kelowna   Q: What drew you to that program?     A:  Everything! This is a program that is built for me. The fact that I get to participate in helping a person to make their daily living better through things such as movement ...

Student Mikala Vujcich with her dogs
Meet Mikala Vujcich, Therapist Assistant student

February 16, 2022

Q: What is your name/preferred name?   A: Mikala   Q: What are your pronouns?   A: she/her   Q: What program and year of study are you in at Okanagan College?  A: I am in my last semester of the Therapist Assistant Diploma  Q: Which campus do you primarily study at?   A: Kelowna   Q: What drew you to that program?   A: The TAD program is a defined diploma program, meaning it is designed and built to direct successful graduates right into the industry. That and the fact that it is a...