Meet Lori Campbell, Director of the Waterloo Aboriginal Education Centre

On April 18th, the Waterloo Aboriginal Education Centre (WAEC) was awarded the 2017 Equity and Inclusivity Award. Kathleen Rybczynski, Chair of the Status of Women and Equity Committee (SWEC), described why the Centre was selected for this year’s award: “The Waterloo Aboriginal Education Centre exemplifies community strength, and with tremendous success has established decolonized spaces that celebrate and share Indigenous knowledges. Developing networks within our campus and broader communities, the centre brings people together: supporting, educating, and working toward respect and reconciliation.”

FAUW asked WAEC’s new director, Lori Campbell, to introduce herself to our community. In this post, Lori tells us about her background, WAEC’s initiatives, and what we can do as faculty members to support Indigenous perspectives and projects.

Meet Lori Campbell

Tānsi, Lori nitisiyihkāson. I am Āpihtākosisāniskwēw, a Mētis woman: Nēhiyaw (Cree) and Scottish. My relatives are from Treaty 6 territory in northern Saskatchewan but I have spent most of my life in the Treaty 4 territory of southern Saskatchewan. It is an honour for me to be an invited guest to fulfill the role of Director, Waterloo Aboriginal Education Centre (WAEC) on the traditional territory of the Neutral, Anishnawbe and Haudenosaunee peoples and on the Haldimand Tract.

I am an intergenerational survivor of the Indian residential school system and a child from the Sixties Scoop generation. The thing I am most proud of is that over the last 23 years I have managed to locate and contact not only my birthmom and immediate family, but all six of my living siblings who were relocated between Ontario, Saskatchewan and Alberta. This in itself was an educational as well as personal experience about the far-reaching effects of the residential school legacy.

I think we can all agree that University is more than just training people to get a job. It plays a significant role in helping people discover who they are, what they can become, and how they can contribute to society. A university education helps people discover what their gifts are, and what their role can be. This is what education has done for me. I went into Indigenous studies many years ago and my life experiences since have contributed not only to my understanding of Indigenous issues but also to my passion for education.

I come from lecturing at the University of Regina, First Nations University of Canada, and Saskatchewan Polytechnic, where I also became Coordinator of the Indigenous Students’ Centre. My background includes a blend of Student Services, teaching, research, and administrative experience. I have taught and developed curriculum for over 10 years.

What the Centre has been doing

The WAEC has been doing a great job of creating space for Indigenous cultural engagement on campus. We have been hosting weekly soup and bannock lunches sponsored by various University departments and clubs, drumming circles, Elders services, summer camps to engage youth in STEM areas, an annual Powwow, and guest lecturing in classrooms – just to name a few activities. We also collaborate with the Faculties to help host Indigenous expert speakers who fit with their program areas.

WAEC staff and students at the Equity & Inclusivity Award reception.
Photo: St. Paul’s University College.

What’s coming for WAEC—and the whole campus

In fall 2017, we hope to host a grand re-opening of the WAEC to announce its new name as well as our permanent outdoor Ceremonial Fire space. This space will offer opportunities for teaching and knowledge-sharing for the entire campus community. The Centre will be hosting open conversations to discuss what being an ally means, why territorial acknowledgment is important, and why nothing should be done about us, without us. In addition, we will hope to launch our virtual learning commons which will include general knowledge topics as well as content areas specifically geared toward faculty.

In addition to the 94 Calls to Action of the Truth and Reconciliation, the University of Waterloo, as a member of Universities Canada, has agreed to follow the Universities Canada principles on Indigenous education (PDF). While the principles are relevant to all post-secondary institutions, how they are followed and incorporated is to be determined by each unique institution and, quite possibly, individual faculties.

The role of faculty

I believe that faculty play a very important role—not only as subject matter experts but also as role models. You can make a difference in the lives of all students, including Indigenous students. You can play a pivotal role in providing opportunities for Indigenous students to thrive . . . or not. I suspect many of you already know ways to reach Indigenous students without even realizing it and I would like to serve as a resource for those of you who would like to do just that. Our website will be updated over the next couple of months so please check back regularly to learn about upcoming events:


Lori ACR Campbell

What you can do now

In addition to participating in the opportunities Lori has described above, we have a few suggestions for what you, as a faculty member, can start doing right now:

Unveiling AccessAbility Services

—Jennifer Gillies, PhD | Manger, AccessAbility Services

AccessAbility Services (ASS) can be a bit of a mystery. The purpose of this post is to help break down the wall between AAS and rest of the campus and shed light on its purpose, function, and benefits.

Why does AccessAbility Services exist?

Offices that support academic accommodations for students with disabilities are present in every postsecondary institution in Ontario. The Ministry of Advanced Education and Skills Development provides financial support and oversight of these offices. At the University of Waterloo, AccessAbility Services fulfills its mandate by collaborating with the university community to support equitable access to post-secondary education by designing academic accommodation plans and facilitating the implementation of accommodations.

The office is accountable to the Ministry concerning documentation requirements and service offerings, but it is also accountable to the Ontario Human Rights Code, the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA), and the integrity and academic standards of the University.

The Ontario Human Rights Commission states that postsecondary instructors have a duty to accommodate students with disabilities. However, students’ medical information is private and needs to be reviewed and stored appropriately. Our office acts as a bridge: We receive and hold the sensitive medical documentation, and relay to you the ways you can fulfill your duty to accommodate. Essentially, our office is a faculty resource. We help you understand your duty to accommodate.

We also help by facilitating most accommodations. For example, our office will:

  • facilitate accommodated exams, as we have the space, technology, and human resources to do so; 
  • arrange alternative format of texts and other materials for you; 
  • connect the student with our learning strategist, our adaptive technologist, or our student services like our access van; 
  • work to make accommodations easy for you 

How are accommodation plans developed?

Some students enter university with a diagnosed disability while others acquire one (or become diagnosed) while studying here. Their disabilities are varied – some have low vision, some are fighting cancer, some are living with multiple sclerosis, and others have learning disabilities. The struggles and barriers that students face in accessing their education can also vary. They may have medical appointments that require they miss classes, difficulty hearing the professor (even from the front row), or difficulty writing notes in class. Regardless of the barrier they are experiencing, they usually find their way to AccessAbility Services.

The first step for these students is to provide our intake advisors (registered health care professionals) with official medical documentation. Not every student with a disability requires academic accommodations. For some, medication or other therapies lessen the barriers they would otherwise face. Some documentation is not accepted, but most identifies legitimate limitations .

Once the documentation is vetted, and the need for specific academic accommodation has been determined by our office, the student is invited to meet with their AccessAbility Services advisor to finalize the accommodation plan. There are times when students would prefer to have additional accommodations. However, accommodations are designed to meet needs, not preferences.

The accommodations recommended by our office are based on standards of practiced developed by offices like ours across Ontario, with input and guidance from the Ministry and provincial legislation. While it may look arbitrary, the accommodations are grounded in evidence-based practice and research related to academic accommodations.

What if I do not agree with an accommodation?

While our advisors talk to students about how their disability affects course work, it is difficult to know the details of every course on campus. As such, the accommodations laid out in the Faculty Notification Letter are somewhat generic. Our office may indicate that testing accommodations are required, but there are no tests in your class. We may indicate that a note-taker needs to be recruited, but you already have an in-class system for sharing course notes.

We encourage instructors to reflect on how the accommodation may or may not work within specific courses.
You might have questions. For example: Does a student require additional time when completing in-class quizzes or when writing in-class reflections? Will the student experience barriers on an upcoming field trip? When you have these questions, connect with us directly so we can collectively determine how best to accommodate the student within the structure of your unique course.

There are times when an accommodation may seem inappropriate for you or your course. In this instance, contact us so we can work it out together. The Ontario Human Rights Commission clearly spells out our shared duty to accommodate, so we are always glad to advise on how to best make that fit.

Are there resources and supports to help me in my role as instructor?

There is a section on our website dedicated to faculty and staff. One resource that instructors have found helpful is ‘Tips and scripts for accommodating students with disabilities in the classroom or lab’. This resource includes scripts for communicating about academic accommodations, including what to do when:

  • a student discloses a disability to you, 
  • requests an accommodation after the fact on the grounds of disability, or 
  • submits medical documentation to you. 

If there is help that you need that is not on the website, just reach out.

I am more than happy to speak to individual instructors or to present to groups. It is important for me to understand the challenges that you face in accommodating students with disabilities so that our office can better support you. The world of academic accommodations can be very complex. We are your resource to help make it a little bit clearer.

I appreciate the time you have taken to learn more about AccessAbility Services, and I thank you for all the great work you do in educating our students.

Jennifer Gillies, PhD
Manager, AccessAbility Services
Needles Hall 1434
519-888-4567, ext. 30440

New Writing Support Programs for Faculty

– Nadine Fladd, University of Waterloo Writing Centre

Faculty often recommend that their undergraduate and graduate students visit the Writing Centre for individual consultations or attend our workshops, but all writers – including professors – can benefit from working with someone who will listen as they talk through their ideas, read rough work, and ask questions to clarify the ideas they want to express.

Nadine Fladd's headshot
Nadine Fladd

As the Writing Centre’s new Writing and Multimodal Communication Specialist with a focus on Graduate, Postdoctoral and Faculty Support, I can support your writing goals as a faculty member – whether you’re working on a book, journal article, grant proposal, or any other project – through 50-minute consultations. These consultations are open to faculty at any stage of the writing process. I can help you work towards your writing goals by providing a sounding board as you plan and outline, helping you experience your drafts the way a reader might, facilitating goal-setting and offering coaching, and consulting on the structure, organization, or mechanics of a draft.

Weekly Writing Café

Have you set big publication goals for yourself for 2017? If so, a regular writing practice can help with productivity and motivation. Based on the success of the Writing Centre’s programming for graduate students, including Dissertation Boot Camp and the weekly Grad Writing Café, the Writing Centre will be hosting a Weekly Writing Café for faculty beginning January 11, 2017. Every Wednesday afternoon we will offer a dedicated writing space (with coffee, tea, and treats!) for faculty to write together. These loosely-structured sessions are designed to help faculty connect to a larger writing community, to stay focused, and to keep making writing progress.

Clare Bermingham, Writing Centre director, serves coffee and Timbits at a writing session for graduate students.
Clare Bermingham, Writing Centre director, serves coffee and Timbits at a writing session for graduate students.

We break these weekly, two-hour meetings into 25-minute writing sprints divided by 5-minute breaks, following the pomodoro technique (PDF). After the writing session, you are welcome to stay to discuss writing goals, challenges and strategies with your colleagues.

Faculty Writing Café: Wednesdays from 2pm to 4pm in SCH 228F
Faculty Writing Discussion: Wednesdays from 4pm to 4:30pm in SCH 228F

How to participate

Please email Nadine Fladd to set up an individual meeting to discuss your project.

There’s no need to register if you’d like to join our weekly Faculty Writing Café. Just show up with your laptop and ready to write!