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FAQ for Students
The purpose of the research practicum is to give you the opportunity to work on a research project in a community setting that addresses the needs of the community. A major aspect of the practicum is negotiating with the organization to finalize a workable design for the project.
First Nations and Indigenous Studies will arrange a meeting on campus with various Indigenous organizations that have expressed interest in working with a practicum student. At this meeting, you will have an opportunity to hear about the practicum projects and host organizations. Following the meeting you will submit a resume and cover letter to the organizations in which you have greatest interest. The host organization will contact you if they would like to interview or meet with you. Once you have been matched with a host organization you will begin to work on a project proposal.
It is extremely important for you to work well with your host organization. If you are offered a placement that you don’t think is a good match for you, we recommend thanking the organization for their offer and respectfully declining.
In very rare circumstances students complete a research practicum outside the Lower Mainland. All petitions for such opportunities must be accommodated by the information listed below, which will be reviewed thoroughly by First Nations and Indigenous Studies (FNIS). When reviewing requests, FNIS will take your full application, the likelihood of success, and the capacity and resources of FNIS into consideration before making a decision.
*Note: Students should not assume that their request will be approved - this is an exceptional situation, not standard practicum procedure.
If a project does not overlap with your work and meets the requirements of the practicum it may be possible for you to complete your practicum at the organization that you are currently working with, but there is the potential for conflict of interest. Please come and talk to us to discuss this possibility further.
First Nations and Indigenous Studies has a few requirements the projects must meet such as a research component, final product, and presentation at the Longhouse, but the guiding principle of the practicum is that projects are based on the ideas of the host organizations and are designed to meet their needs. It is also crucial that your needs, interests, and skills as a student are addressed to create a final design that works for everyone.
You will work approximately 8 hours a week on your practicum project, beginning in mid-October and concluding at the end of February with an additional hour or so a week required for meetings with the FNIS 400 class. Hours can be flexible depending on the nature of the project and the needs of your organization, but this should be negotiated during the early stages of the research project design.
The amount of supervision that you will receive will vary considerably depending on the nature of your project. If, for instance, you are organizing an organization’s archive, you may receive fairly little supervision beyond identifying the materials and what is hoped for as an outcome, though of course the organization may have more information or direction they want to share with you. If your practicum project consists of assisting in the preparation of documentation for an application for funding, your host organization might want to provide more direction on what needs to be done and whether the work you are doing will work the way they would like it to. If you are playing a specific role in an existing research project, the amount of supervision you receive is likely to be far more extensive.
A percentage of your grade will be based on the completion of several assignments including the preparation of a resume, organizational profile, ethics review, literature review, and weekly write-ups. The majority of your practicum will be spent completing the work assigned to you for your host organization. You will also be expected to write a final research paper, as well as deliver presentations on your research to the Musqueam First Nation and to the broader community at the First Nations House of Learning on campus.
The practicum positions are not paid positions. Students complete the practicum as part of a senior-level course requirement, FNIS 400-Research Practicum.
At the beginning of the project we will assist you and your host organization in formalizing the mode of evaluation most suitable to the work being done. In the past, host organizations have written a letter evaluating the practicum and FNIS faculty and staff have assigned a grade to the practicum portion of the course based on this letter.
Lots! Professors work very closely with their practicum students to provide guidance and support. Your professor will be available and flexible for meeting one-on-one and providing ample support and advice with your project and any challenges you may face during the course of the year.
This possibility needs to be discussed with your supervisor. Many students have gone on to paid positions with the organization they partnered with once their practicum was completed.
Research projects for the practicum vary depending on the needs of the organization. A wide range of projects is possible provided that research is a significant component. Here are some example projects:
1. Developing and Maintaining an Archive
Many organizations and communities have archives of materials that have accumulated over the years, but are unsorted and in storage. Sometimes the materials are old and beginning to deteriorate. A project might be for the student to assess what is in the archive, sort the materials, and catalogue what is there.
The student could work with the organization to stabilize the condition of any materials that are deteriorating and determine how to organize them. From there, a research project could develop that takes the student and organization in any number of directions.
Past students have worked at the Union of BC Indian Chiefs Resource Centre. Some students prepared historical documents for online access and written interpretive materials. Another student catalogued audiotapes of an important historical event. She then conducted additional research on the representation of the event in the press and presented her analysis as part of her year-end presentation.
Many projects contain an interviewing component. Often documentary or archival work leads to new research directions, which requires designing and conducting interviews. Other projects concentrate on interviewing as the primary methodology from the start.
2. Interview Projects
Several students have worked on oral history projects using audiovisual technologies to document the stories and experiences of people involved in underrepresented histories. Such projects can provide significant material to organizational libraries and archives. For instance, one student’s oral history of the 1984 Constitution Express contributed to the collections of the Union of BC Indian Chiefs Resource Centre.
Another student videotaped more than fifteen interviews with early leaders of the Native Courtworker and Counseling Association of BC, forming a valuable historical archive for the Association.
One student interviewed a retired anthropologist for the UBC Museum of Anthropology and the Musqueam Indian Band. This provided an important record of this person’s work and career in Coast Salish anthropology.
Each year there are also opportunities for students to work with political organizations. For instance, one student worked with the BC Assembly of First Nations to conduct interviews with community leaders on their attitudes towards self-governance in different communities.
Another student interviewed Stó:lō community members about their knowledge of salmon in the Fraser River. This research aimed to help the Stó:lō Tribal Council develop policies on fish farming.
3. Report Writing
It can be challenging for organizations to find the time, space, and resources necessary for research. We understand that many organizations are extremely busy managing day-to-day operations, applying for government or agency funding, and writing reports demonstrating need or effectiveness to sustain their work. Often the work of report writing ends up being done “off the corner” of a staff person’s already full desk. A practicum student can fill this gap, compiling the information, doing the research, and organizing it into an effective and readable report. The organization can benefit from the report, and the student can gain valuable research experience.
Report-writing projects can include preparing needs assessments for existing organizations or proposals for the development of new or extended organizations. Previous practicum students have delivered literature reviews, analytical reports, and position papers for organizations.
One student’s report for the Britannia Community Centre investigated the community’s need for an Elders in residence program. The report recommended how the program would best serve community members. Upon completion of the report the community centre carried forward those recommendations and extended the research project.
Another student compiled a report on Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder and the incarceration of Aboriginal peoples for the Vancouver Métis Community Association. The student performed documentary research and interviews with frontline workers to assist the organization in developing programs for FASD clients.
Many projects are designed to involve a combination of the skills listed above. We are open to discussing ideas with your organization. We encourage organizations to think about what their research needs are and how students might design projects to address those specific needs.
There are also opportunities for practicum students to fit into existing research projects under the supervision of experienced researchers, fulfilling a variety of functions as directed. For instance, a previous practicum student worked as part of a larger project for the National Film Board training young Aboriginal filmmakers. The organization can benefit from the timely completion of research, and the student can benefit from a valuable apprenticeship.
We ask that student involvement in such projects be at a level that allows the student the opportunity to understand and participate in the design and strategic implementation of the project. These projects require additional preparation and monitoring. Please call us if you have an idea for one.