Manitou a bi Bii daziigae officially opens
RRC Polytech's innovation centre 'represents a new beginning'
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This article was published 12/11/2021 (499 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Red River College Polytechnic’s newest building at its downtown campus opened Wednesday with an extended Indigenous pipe ceremony.
What had been referred to as the Innovation Centre for the five years of its development was officially renamed at the opening. The building is now called Manitou a bi Bii daziigae – Ojibwe words meaning “where creator sits and brings light.”
The acknowledgement of the importance of Indigenous heritage as well as time taken to describe how the spirit name was chosen — RRC Polytech’s elders in residence Paul Guimond and Una Swan engaged in a three-day spiritual fast before coming up with the name — is perhaps a sign of the times as organizations like RRC Polytech strive to commit to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s calls to action.
The 100,000-square-foot building, immediately north of the main Princess Street campus building, includes 18 new classrooms and six program-specific labs equipped with advanced technology that are designed for collaboration as well as a 210-seat auditorium featuring ventilation that will make it a welcoming space for Indigenous smudging ceremonies.
When it becomes fully occupied with students and staff in January, it will bring 1,200 more people into the West Exchange neighbourhood.
Indigenous representation is present throughout the building — with works from Anishinabee artist Jackie Traverse and Cree/British artist KC Adams — and the combination of information technology, Indigenous and language training which will take place there was part of the inspiration for the name.
Swan said, “You walk into the building and you feel the positive energy. The innovation centre represents a new beginning, forward thinking, ideas that were not thought of before.”
Manitou a bi Bii daziigae will also become the home for RRC’s Language Training Centre, which offers a range of English-language training for 1,000 new Canadian and international students that has been housed for the past 20 years at the Via Rail building.
The Ace Project Space will also move into the new building. The very successful program that links business and information technology students with entrepreneurs who need assistance in specific areas of development for their business will be expanded as the waiting list of entrepreneurs who want to participate keeps growing. So far the Ace Project Space has completed more than 170 projects.
Kerri Korabelnikov, dean of education and applied arts, said, “The Ace Project Space housed in this new building opens up the possibility as to how we can involve students in more programs in this model of learning.”
Even though the building’s christening takes place while most of the college’s students are engaged in remote learning, it will soon become a bustling hub of activity.
Earlier this year the college opened enrolment for 10 new programs, the highest number of new programs in one year in the college’s recent history, all of which will operate out of the new building.
They include digital film and media production, video game production, data science and machine learning and other digital technology courses.
“We have a strong responsibility to be able to meet the emerging needs of our industry partners. We are proud to say that many of the new programs this year were created in consultation with businesses and organizations in Manitoba’s fastest growing industries,” Korabelnikov said.
Fred Meier, RRC Polytech’s president and CEO, said, “We see a lot of emerging areas of the labour market that are asking for support. The IT industry is an area of the economy that is actively growing and seeking talent and skills.”
Meier said the building will enhance the college’s track record of responding quickly to the needs of the labour market.
He is also not concerned with being able to pay for the $94.5-million undertaking. It was originally financed with a $40.6-million grant from the federal government and a $54.78-million loan from the province.
The loan is to be paid off through a capital campaign that has been on-going. Meier said it would be officially launched later this month.
“One of the things we are looking forward to and are thankful for is the strong support of partners who have been with us for many years,” he said. “We have seen them stepping forward when they come to see the space and our new strategic plan.”
Certain spaces in and around the new building have been supported by the Red River College Students’ Association, Wawanesa Mutual Insurance, TD Friends of the Environment Foundation, Informanix Technology Group, Fortinet, and the Children’s Education Funds.
With the official opening and ceremony now having taken place, Meier said signage with the building’s official name — Manitou a bi Bii daziigae — will be going up soon.
Martin Cash has been writing a column and business news at the Free Press since 1989. Over those years he’s written through a number of business cycles and the rise and fall (and rise) in fortunes of many local businesses.
Updated on Friday, November 12, 2021 6:16 AM CST: Adds photos