Erica Baker (2014)




Hometown (Nation): Thorold, ON

Graduation Year: May 2014

Degree Specialization: FNIS Major

Research Practicum Topic: Aboriginal Snowboarders





I was drawn to this program because of its high calibre courses in research methods and theory that most undergraduate programs would not be so ambitious as to offer. Couple this fact with the opportunity to be incubated with other like-minded individuals who are also trying to answer questions that are bigger than our lifetimes, not just in a high-level way but also through hands on research experience, makes this program the clear choice in my mind for those who want more than a univeristy education--it is a program for leaders. I want to be a great leader and to do so I need to be challenged and learn to navigate the most complex of issues, while developing my vision for our future. FNIS has given me the opportunity to do that, and more.


My favourite class was the dual semester research practicum where I completed a research project for the First Nations Snowboard Team. I could see my transformation happening from when I first enrolled in the program to who I have become now. I also felt like I was being offered a graduate-level course at the undergraduate level, which pushed me to achieve more than I thought I could otherwise.


My best memory from being a FNIS student would be how the program became a way of life, rather than a course list I was completing. Some of my fondest memories are from walking down the road to the Musqueam Community Centre to take language classes with my peers and working in the FNIS office after class. Being a part of such a tight-knit, loving, and passionate group of people that breathed FNIS inside the classroom and out was the best part of it all. You really do feel like you belong and like you are a part of something that is bigger than yourself.


I am currently finishing my Masters in Kinesiology and Health Studies at Queen's University and in partnership with the University of Hawaii at Mānoa. If it wasn't for FNIS, I don't think that I would have been prepared for graduate school and have had the same success that I have today as a Masters student. The program prepared me well for research-based graduate work through the FNIS research practicum.


Students should consider a FNIS major or minor if they are looking for an education that is all about unconventional thinking, creative problem solving, being relevant to the contemporary moment, pushing social innovation, and building community. FNIS is not a program that can be boiled down into a textbook. It is a program built on dialogue, experience in communities, and intellectual puzzles for those who want to be fully committed to what they study. Students with a FNIS degree walk away as leaders who are not easily intimidated by risk and are ambitious in their goals for decolonizing our world.


Before starting the research practicum, graduate school wasn't on my radar at all (spoiler: I went straight into graduate school immediately afterwards). Looking back, I would tell current students to keep an open mind and use the research practicum for self-exploration and deep skill development. The research practicum showed me how much I love research but I just hadn't had an opportunity to explore that part of me previously, which ultimately lead me to graduate school. I would also add that students should soak up every extra opportunity they have to be engaged with their placement and appreciate every interaction like it is a gift, because it truly is.