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Community inclusion for social change

Early childhood studies BA and MA graduate Nicole Ineese-Nash is determined to improve the lives of Indigenous children with disabilities.

For her major research paper, Nicole – a member of the Constance Lake First Nation – set out to better understand the support systems available for children with disabilities in Indigenous communities. Through her research, she learned many First Nation children and their families must leave their communities for the majority of services, and also that these services weren’t culturally appropriate for Indigenous children to experience.

While most graduate students typically defend their thesis in front of a small panel of faculty members, Nicole decided to present her findings to the District of Timiskaming Elders Council, who acted as a cultural advisory on her work. Nicole's defense took place at the Timiskaming Native Women's Support group in the presence of supervisor Kathryn Underwood, the defense Chair, Lynn Lavallee, as well as friends and family. Not only did this experience provide Nicole with perspective from those directly affected by her area of study, it also paved the way for policies to be more sensitive to Indigenous culture, by recognizing Indigenous knowledge within academic institutions.

Through her courses, professors, and internships at Ryerson, Nicole was able to gain invaluable insights on First Nation communities and their people, as well as on the issues she sought to address.

Ryerson’s commitment to diversity and inclusion enables students like Nicole to get closer to the heart of what they’re studying, providing opportunities to create positive community change.

Photo by Chris Manson

Located in Toronto’s downtown core, Ryerson University offers full-time and part-time undergraduate and graduate programs, innovative learning opportunities, and a diverse and welcoming campus community.