Red River College culinary arts program intrigues new president

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Stephanie Forsyth transformed a community college in northern B.C. into a shining light for aboriginal education -- and now she's taking over as president of Red River College.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 18/06/2010 (4440 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Stephanie Forsyth transformed a community college in northern B.C. into a shining light for aboriginal education — and now she’s taking over as president of Red River College.

"Red River College has certainly got a very strong reputation nationally and internationally — it’s one of the only community colleges (in Canada) taking a big focus on First Nations Education," Forsyth said in an interview Thursday.

As president of Northwest Community College in Terrace, B.C., for the past 10 years, Forsyth has overseen a tripling in enrolment, and a student body that’s now close to 50 per cent aboriginal.

Stephanie Forsyth: skilled trades

"We have bilingual signs on campus, totem poles, teepees," and a longhouse, said Forsyth. "We’ve found ways of bringing people along who are chronically unemployed, or disadvantaged because of colonialism." Northwest has delivered community-based programs on campuses in 10 communities in northern interior B.C.

"The aboriginal world view is different from mainstream Canada’s — we celebrate it," Forsyth said.

She succeeds Jeff Zabudsky, who left in January to take over the three massive Sheridan College campuses in the Toronto area. Forsyth officially starts work at Red River Sept. 27 on a five-year contract.

Forsyth said she’s aware of some of the aspirations Zabudsky had for further expansion — a potential allied health sciences program on the site of the Public Safety Building, should it become available; a third campus in southeast Winnipeg; more facilities for skilled trades and heavy transportation programs at Notre Dame campus — but isn’t ready to talk about them yet.

But Forsyth is certainly intrigued by development of the Union Bank Tower downtown and the new culinary arts program and restaurant being developed there.

"Culinary arts has followed me in every postsecondary institution I’ve worked in," Forsyth said.

She used to run restaurants, and wrote her master’s thesis in education at the University of British Columbia on a proposal for an international hotel school to be based in Vancouver.

When she taught at Vancouver Community College, "We set up a restaurant for training inner-city youth."

Red River is one of the few community colleges in Canada conducting applied research, she pointed out.

And Forsyth said she’ll maintain Red River’s emphasis on training as many workers as possible in the skilled trades, and on convincing students, parents, and high school educators that community colleges are as valid an education path as universities.

Forsyth, who is an adopted member of Tsimshian Nation in B.C. said she has embraced her aboriginal identity. Of Blackfoot ancestry, Forsyth said "We were estranged from our roots due to Mormon religion. I wasn’t raised in the culture."

Forsyth chuckled that with a German mother, she does not look like a visible minority.

nick.martin@freepress.mb.ca

 

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