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Clock ticking for Mal-U to raise $1.25-million

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November 24, 2005

Source: Malaspina University College:
http://www.mala.ca/releases/release.asp?ID=829

Clock ticking for Mal-U to raise $1.25-million

"The clock is ticking."

Thatís how Dr. David Thomas, Vice-President of Academic programs at Malaspina University-College, describes efforts to raise $1.25-million in matching funds to create a permanent research Chair for Aboriginal Early Childhood Development at the Nanaimo campus.

This week, a lobby group operating through the Malaspina Foundation will approach local financial institutions for private sector funding.

"By March 1, we need to have a solid five-year business plan in place with funding, otherwise weíll lose a terrific opportunity," said Thomas. "If we canít raise matching funds, months of hard work and a $1.25-million commitment from the B.C. governmentís Leading Edge Endowment Fund (LEEF) could potentially go down the drain. Thereís a lot at stake."

Malaspina received approval-in-principle from LEEF for a BC Regional Innovation Chair in Aboriginal Early Childhood Development last July. That approval came with a pledge of $1.25-million, but it hinges on Malaspinaís ability to raise matching funds. LEEF was established in 2002 in fulfillment of the governmentís New Era commitment to establish permanent leadership chairs across BC in the fields of medical, social, environmental and technological research.

The Malaspina lobby group has been working tirelessly since September to secure funding, said Thomas. Despite meeting with dozens of senior level politicians and bureaucrats in Ottawa and Victoria, the task is proving difficult.

"Weíve received strong verbal support from key people, including David Emerson, Minister of Industry and Keith Martin, MP for Esquimalt Juan de Fuca Keith Martin," said Thomas. "But we need that support to translate into action. We need to secure matching funds, and time is running out."

Asked if he is optimistic Malaspina will meet the March 1 deadline Thomas said, "We feel a slim measure of hope in light of recent announcements by federal and provincial governments that $5-billion is available for improvements to Aboriginal education and health care across Canada. Our proposal is one that would have far reaching positive effects on the lives of Aboriginal children and their families out of proportion to its total costs."

As requested by LEEF, Malaspina submitted a full proposal outlining "an exciting program of research" for the Chair for Aboriginal Early Childhood Development. In addition, after an extensive selection process, Malaspina nominated Dr. Catherine Richardson for the position. Dr. Richardson is a current research associate at Malaspina and "an outstanding candidate," said Thomas.

A Metis with Cree and Dene ancestry, Dr. Richardson completed a Ph.D. at the University of Victoria, School of Child and Youth Care. Her dissertation, which focuses on Aboriginal identity formation as it relates to Metis people, was nominated for the Governor Generalís Gold Medal.

Dr. Richardson has worked for the B.C. Ministry for Children and Family Development, City University, the University of Victoria, and numerous school districts and Aboriginal organizations. Her program of research would include projects to enhance Aboriginal early childhood development training programs at post-secondary institutions.

Local First Nations groups and Malaspina have already teamed up to collaboratively research and develop relevant training for Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people working with young children, added Thomas. Malaspina has a long history of working with Aboriginal communities on Vancouver Island and elsewhere in B.C. to meet the academic and cultural needs of Aboriginal students, and has over 1,200 First Nations students enrolled in its programs.

Dr. Richardsonís research would build upon existing relationships with Aboriginal communities, other researchers, service agencies and governments to gain new knowledge, put the knowledge into action, and share effective approaches across the province and country. Potential research projects may include identifying what Aboriginal families want for their children and the supports required, critically examining current teaching practices in early childhood development and how they fit with what families require.

Meanwhile, Thomas said Malaspina will continue to lobby strongly to raise matching funds for the Chair in Aboriginal Early Childhood Development.

"It would be a huge disappointment to a great many people if we lose this opportunity," he added. "There is great potential for Dr. Richardson and her team to conduct the kind of applied research that is required to make a positive contribution to improving the lives of Aboriginal children and their families. All we need is matching funds to make it happen."

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For more information contact: Marianne van Toor, Director of Media Relations & Publications. Phone (250) 740-6341; FAX (250) 740-6474; E-mail VANTOOR@mala.bc.ca


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