Community represents a driving force for new associate director, Indigenous Relations
By: Matthew King (he/him)
Bryanne Smart aims to enrich CEE’s work through valuable first-hand experience.
Nurturing Indigenous voices, identities and community within Waterloo’s work-integrated learning model takes first-hand experience. Bryanne Smart (she/her), associate director, Indigenous Relations at
Co-operative and Experiential Education (CEE), has the passion and experience to help create change.
Smart is a member of Six Nations of the Grand River and an Indigenous professional with more than 15 years of extensive work with First Nations, Inuit and Métis communities and organizations across Canada.
She is an advocate of successfully foregrounding Indigenous voices across multiple industries, including education.
Smart accepted her role as the newly created associate director of Indigenous Relations in September 2022. She is excited about the prospect of aligning her Indigenous community and work experiences in this role.
“The University of Waterloo is really moving forward intentionally in their work. To be a part of that from the beginning to evoke change collectively and to build indigenous relations is a great opportunity,” says Smart.
"It was a perfect alignment to the collective experiences that I've had. My desire is to be in this space, make that change and move it forward.”
Enriching the work
As a unit, CEE has built a framework for equity, diversity, inclusion and anti-racism (EDI-R) as well as Indigenous relations (IR) into its strategic plan. Hiring Smart is one of many steps the unit is undertaking to move these initiatives forward.
“We want to Indigenize our unit to better support our Indigenous students, team members and communities as best we can,” says Norah McRae, associate provost, CEE. “Bryanne’s experience is vital to do this. As she builds relationships, the hope is we will be able to further develop our model of collaboration, consultation and partnerships — on and off campus.”
Smart’s portfolio is embedded in CEE and she co-reports to both McRae and Jean Becker, associate vice-president, Indigenous Relations.
“Having Bryanne report to Norah is essential because she's embedded in that unit and her mission is all around the CEE unit,” says Becker. “She needs the professional support from CEE. She really needs to be embedded there to understand the unit itself. That way she can maximize her contributions and be critical in helping to Indigenize that unit.”
Building a strong foundation with intention behind the work is an early priority for Smart. This, she believes, comes from listening to what people are already saying.
Listening is important to identify the gaps in the services being provided. From there, we can identify areas to incorporate Indigenous ways of knowing and doing for the benefit of all CEE stakeholders, implement change from an Indigenous lens, and learn to better serve our Indigenous students and allies.”
An opportunity to listen and address questions raised by the CEE community comes in December. Smart will take part in a fireside chat at the CEE business meeting alongside:
- Dr. Christopher Taylor, associate vice-president, Equity, Diversity, Inclusion and Anti-Racism
- Colleen Phillips-Davis, associate director, Equity, Diversity, Inclusion & Anti-racism
“It’s important feeling okay with what you don't know when it comes to Indigenous people or colonialism,” says Smart. “Let's create a space where you can come in and ask about it. I want people to know that it's okay not to know.”