WINU Plans for the Future, Honors GraduatesAug 20th, 2015 | By tcj | Category: Online TC News, Tribal College News, Web Exclusive
At the recent World Indigenous Nations Higher Education Consortium (WINHEC) meeting in Fort Frances, Ontario, delegates from around globe gathered to discuss the future of the World Indigenous Nations University (WINU). The university was established in 2013 and adopted its official constitution a year later at the annual WINHEC meeting in Hawai’i. The conference in Fort Frances marks the third time that WINU organizers and educators gathered collectively in an effort to strategize about critical issues such as funding, accreditation, structure, governance, and articulation.
WINU chancellor Turoa Royal (Maori) and vice chancelor Jan Henry Keskitalo (Sami) led discussions on how the institution might expand, improve operations, and reach more students in the coming years. “Higher education is for everybody,” Royal stated. “It is not for the rich or the elite, it is for us all.” Royal further noted that WINU can provide educational opportunities for Indigenous peoples who are unable, for whatever reason, to attend mainstream institutions. “We have every right to provide these opportunities,” he maintained.
Unlike most mainstream colleges and universities, WINU has no central office, nor does it have a brick and mortar campus. Moreover, WINHEC is the sole accrediting body for WINU. Currently, the university offers graduate degrees, diplomas, and certificates in Indigenous studies. Programs of study are largely self-directed and are organized with the colleges, universities, and other educational institutions that are affiliated with WINU. At present, there are seven education regions that report to WINU: Alaska, the mainland United States, Canada, Samiland, Australia and New Zealand, Taiwan, and Hawai’i. Each region, however, has a degree of autonomy. “There will be considerable flexibility within courses in different regions,” Royal noted. “One of the challenges will be in the matter of standards and comparability of standards between education regions.”
Another challenge is funding. WINU’s structure and each region’s respective affiliation with another college, university, or other educational institution has made overhead costs minimal. Indeed, nearly all of the organization and work that has gone into WINU has been completed on a pro bono basis. But if the university hopes to open a central office with paid staff, and if it seeks to expand and reach out to Indigenous peoples around the globe, a reliable source of funding will become essential. Chancelor Royal stated that the passage of the International Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples has opened up greater funding opportunities, most notably through the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).
Despite such challenges, WINU has forged ahead with its do-it-yourself ethos. During the WINHEC conference, the university honored its second cohort of graduates at a special ceremony hosted by the Naicatchewenin First Nation and the Seven Generations Education Institute. Puanani Burgess, Colleen Perry, Peter Buckskin, Hohaia Collier, Chi’ Anakwat Delbert Horton, Niizhogwanebiik Ginewikwe Laura Horton, and Jan-Henry Keskitalo were among the second cohort of graduates. WINU bestowed Edward Benton Banai with an honorary doctorate.