White, male, cis settler zeroes in on Indigenization of education

In his master's thesis, Logan Lorenz concluded that this really requires "an intentional commitment to change on both a personal and institutional level"

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      Logan Lorenz was six years old when the last Indian residential school closed in 1996.

      It wasn’t until his adulthood that the UBC student affairs and services professional learned about these boarding schools that constitute a dark chapter in Canada’s past.

      While growing up and going to school in Alberta, Lorenz recalled that the history of Indigenous peoples was mostly presented in a “romanticized way”.

      “Things like the fur trade was one of the main focuses of, at least at some point in, my K-12 education,” Lorenz told the Straight in a phone interview.

      In this version of the past, people came from other parts of the world to “help or settle the land”, and that was “more or less seen as a positive thing”.

      During his early years, Lorenz said, there was hardly a discussion of what Indigenous peoples went through following European colonization. These included the introduction of diseases for which they didn’t have immunity and the setting up of the Indian residential schools, where some 150,000 children were forced to attend and unlearn their culture.

      “I think things have changed a lot—or I hope they’ve changed a lot—but my memories of it were that it wasn’t much exposure,” Lorenz said.

      Armed with a degree in psychology from the University of Calgary, Lorenz moved to Vancouver about eight years ago and pursued a career in student affairs and services.

      Professionals in the field of student affairs and services play an important role in postsecondary education. They advise and guide students in colleges and universities in a wide range of areas, such as campus life and career development.

      In the course of his young career and in the process of earning a master’s degree in higher education, Lorenz has come to know more about Indigenous issues.

      Meanwhile, colleges and universities, in varying degrees and forms, are in the midst of a process called Indigenization.

      What Indigenization means is the acknowledgment and incorporation of Indigenous knowledge and ways of learning in various components of higher education.

      This involves an array of initiatives, which include student and staff admissions, curriculum development, and creation of spaces that reflect Indigenous culture. Indigenization also entails engaging all sectors on-campus, including staff in student affairs and services, like Lorenz.

      When the time came for Lorenz to prepare his master’s thesis, he decided to look into how professionals in his field are making sense of Indigenization. He also wanted to find out what they are doing in line with this process, and how they are advancing this initiative.

      “I started to think about…as someone that identifies as a white, male, cisgender settler, what can I do or what can I know? Is there some piece or some part that I can play in that?” Lorenz told the Straight.

      Through interviews and data analysis, his thesis came to the conclusion that there is “much momentum and enthusiasm for Indigenization”.

      "Indigenization requires an intentional commitment to change on both a personal and institutional level," Lorenz wrote. "It also involves localization and connection with Indigenous peoples and communities." 

      But there are “still many questions and sensemaking to come”. As Lorenz’s thesis noted, some professionals in student affairs and services may “feel paralyzed to undertake Indigenization”. This is due to either “lack of perceived knowledge” or the “idea that their small action may have a minimal contribution”.

      As someone who works in the field, Lorenz wrote, he can “relate to this feeling of paralysis”. But it also gives him hope that, individually and together, they can “take small actions to lead to more significant changes in higher education”.

      The work he put into his thesis also became a part of Lorenz’s personal journey.

      “I still consider my knowledge incomplete, but I have the skills and confidence to know where to look. I have grown so much as a researcher and a practitioner,” Lorenz wrote.

      He successfully defended “The Indigenization of Student Affairs and Services in Canadian Higher Education” and earned his master’s degree at UBC in January 2021.

      In March this year, Lorenz started his new job as a manager at the Sauder School of Business, where he advises students on career development.