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SFU's expanded Indigenous student space: a place of visibility and reclamation

Enlarged facility to help provide safe space for Indigenous students across SFU campuses.

Earlier this year, Simon Fraser University (SFU) opened its expanded Indigenous Student Centre (ISC) to provide a safe space for Indigenous students  —  it's a project that was six years in the making.

For Jessica La Rochelle, director of Indigenous Student Services at SFU, this newly opened Indigenous student space is a way of reclaiming space on campus and being more visible.

The space, which opened Jan. 27, is for “Indigenous students [to feel] welcome and seen at SFU," she said.

“I'm absolutely thrilled,”  La Rochelle said. “When I first started at SFU in 2020, it was something that I was told about, and now being able to witness and actually work out of the space now has been really exciting.

“I feel like it's a space that we can really make our own,” she added. “The students have some great ideas of things they'd like to see — activities, workshops and programming that they'd like to see, and to be able to offer that has fuelled my passion for education and being able to provide those relevant cultural student services.”

The space is open from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., and offers work and study spaces for students to access, including computer stations and a meeting room with web conferencing equipment.

It also features a kitchen, a drumming room and opportunities for cultural connections through the Indigenous Student Centre’s (ISC) programs.

But La Rochelle hopes that once construction is completed wholly, Indigenous students will be able to have a safe space on campus to access after hours when it's quieter.

The facility provides access to sewing machines and materials for students to .earn how to make ribbon shirts and ribbon skirts, and the drumming room has drawn different folks including an Elder and a recent alum who does sessions on the larger powwow drum.

“I just want [students] to feel welcome to come and access the space and recognize that it is a space designed by them and for them,” La Rochelle said. “We're here to provide the services that they need to be successful.”

She encourages the Indigenous community at SFU — students, faculty, and alumni, to visit the space and learn more.

ISC’s expanded presence is not limited to the Burnaby campus. The Surrey campus also has a new location, and the Vancouver campus is being allocated additional space for future expansion.

Visit the ICS website for more information.