By Christine Roulston
Hunt-Jinnouchi meets with environmental studies graduate student Tom Child, who is researching contaminant levels in Vancouver Island First Nations communities’ traditional marine foods.
Frances (Fran) Hunt-Jinnouchi is a strong advocate of listening to a person’s needs and then acting accordingly.
“It’s important to respond to the students’ needs and the needs of the Aboriginal community instead of just saying, ‘This is what we have to offer,’” says the newly appointed first director of UVic’s new Office of Indigenous Affairs.
Once we understand their needs, things can start to fall into place. It might involve alternative forms of education, such as field centres, where educational programs can be delivered in the community.”
It’s that kind of forward thinking that makes Hunt-Jinnouchi a perfect fit for the new Office of Indigenous Affairs, which replaces the former Aboriginal Liaison Office, and has an expanded role and mandate in keeping with the university’s goal to be the university of choice for Indigenous students. Both the office and position are unique among BC universities and reinforce UVic’s strong commitment to Indigenous education.
“I feel we are on the threshold of an incredible movement at UVic and I’m looking forward to assisting in the process,” says Hunt-Jinnouchi, who puts building relationships with Indigenous students and partnering with Vancouver Island’s Aboriginal communities at the top of her priority list.
Hunt-Jinnouchi will also play a key and influential role in developing UVic policy, says Associate Vice-President Academic and Student Affairs Jim Anglin. “UVic has created an office that is situated at the heart of the administrative structure. As founding director, Fran will work on a daily basis with academic and support service leaders across the campus, will sit at the key tables where policies are formulated and programs developed, and will assist with the implementation of new and ongoing Indigenous educational initiatives.”
Hunt-Jinnouchi brings to the role diverse experience in Indigenous education. She was director of the Saanich Adult Education Centre for seven years before becoming acting principal of the K’ak’ot’latsi School in Quatsino, near Port Hardy. She was elected chief of the Quatsino First Nation last year. She has served on several high-profile provincial and national boards and committees, and was founding chair of the Indigenous Adult and Higher Learning Association. She is a graduate of UVic’s School of Social Work and completed her master’s degree in adult education at St. Francis Xavier University.
Through her professional experience, Hunt-Jinnouchi has seen the landscape of Indigenous education evolve. “We’ve come a long way over the last few decades,” she says.
Twenty years ago the goal was to get more Indigenous students to attend university. Now, as more are graduating from undergraduate studies, we need specific graduate-level Indigenous programs to further their education and to provide critical research for Indigenous community development.”
Currently, there are an estimated 600 Indigenous students enrolled at UVic.