5Q: Laylia Bennett, Mount Allison’s Indigenous Affairs Intern
11/8/2017 2:27:34 PM

Laylia_bennettLaylia is a second-year Arts student, seeking a double major in anthropology and Indigenous studies (pending special approval from the University). She is from Rexton, NB and this year’s Indigenous Affairs intern on campus.

1. This is a fairly new internship at Mount Allison. What’s involved with this position?

The Indigenous Affairs office is a busy one. Doreen (Richard, Mount Allison’s Indigenous affairs co-ordinator) has a lot of work in her office. I try to assist in any way I can. 

I help communicate with Indigenous students at Mount A, both through her office and the student-run Indigenous Support Group. This includes keeping students up to date on events and resources that might be of interest.

Event organization is also a big part of the internship. Earlier this year I helped organize a sweat in Dorchester for members of the Indigenous Support Group. We also worked together with Doreen and other departments on campus on this year’s RedDress campaign as well as a guest presentation by Lorise Simon on missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls. I’m looking forward to the rest of the President’s Speakers Series this year as well. It’s incredible to have a full Indigenous line-up.

During the Fall Reading Week, Doreen and I will be travelling to the University of Manitoba to attend the third annual Building Reconciliation Forum. I’m excited to learn from educators across the country about ways universities and communities can take action on reconciliation.

2. Why do you think this office is an important resource for both Indigenous and non-Indigenous students and other University community members?

Speaking as an Indigenous student, having someone on campus like Doreen who is Indigenous and an Elder, is great. She gets it. Indigenous students come to university with different needs based on the unique histories and cultures that they come from. She knows what it’s like to come from an Indigenous community and the particular challenges that can come up during the transition into university life.

But this office just isn’t for Indigenous students. It’s open to and helping to educate the entire University community on Indigenaity and to stifle and eliminate the risks of cultural appropriation and discrimination. I think if you ask anyone who has visited Mount Allison’s Indigenous Affairs Coordinator, they will tell you they’ve felt welcomed and learned something new from her.

3. What else are you involved in at Mount Allison?

I am the eco-rep in my residence and sit on the University’s Environmental Issues Committee. I am also a member of the Indigenous Advisory Committee, and involved in a group at MtA called “Eco-Action.”

I am one of the interns working in the Purdy Crawford Teaching Centre for Karen Trask, the Casino New Brunswick Artist-in-Residence at Mount Allison. I work with her a few hours a week. It’s great to have this opportunity as well.

4. Any post-Mount A plans yet?

I have a poster in my room I picked up at this year’s fair. It says, “Leap and the net will appear.” It’s great, I love it.

I’m working very hard to create Mount Allison’s first customized major in Indigenous Studies (pending special approval from Mount A). I am looking forward to seeing what the world offers and where the path that this journey of education will lead me on.

5. What advice would you give to a first-year student? What’s something you wish you knew coming to Mount A?

There are so many more opportunities for you at university, take them! This is hard when you’re moving from high school and getting use to university classes and assignments, but the number of incredible speakers and events happening on campus is amazing, and it’s all for you. I use to hesitate about going to events but now if I see something that looks cool, I go, even if it’s by myself.

Also, I want students to know that there are resources out there that are created to support you in times of need. Please never hesitate to reach out. They are there to help.