Emily Carr University of Art + Design is pleased to announce the appointment of Marcia Guno as the university’s new Vice-Provost, Students.
Marcia is from the Nisga'a Nation. Her Nisga’a name is K’amyuuwa’a. She is Laxsgiik (Eagle) and is from the House of Minee’eskw.
For the past six years, Marcia has worked as Director of the Indigenous Student Centre at Simon Fraser University.
“As I prepare myself for the amazing new journey ahead of me at Emily Carr, I carry with me my cultural values and teachings,” she says. “I am grateful for our traditional medicines and for opportunities to get out onto the land. For me, the land is a beautiful canvas, rich with art, history, language and traditional teachings for us all.
“I think of all the people who have come before me, to help strive for more inclusion and representation of Indigenous people and people of colour at all levels of educational institutions. I look forward to joining the Emily Carr community. I look forward to being in a smaller campus community, surrounded by creativity, innovation and diversity that is rich with cultural teachings.”
Marcia will begin her appointment at Emily Carr on January 6, 2021.
“Marcia has consistently demonstrated a deep commitment to finding new ways to create access for Indigenous students, and to rethinking how student support is defined and delivered,” Gillian Siddall, President of Emily Carr University, says. “We are very fortunate — and delighted — that Marcia has decided to join ECU.”
Leadership that reflects our diverse community
The Vice-Provost, Students, is charged with a wide range of duties, including providing leadership and advice on high-priority initiatives central to students’ success. Marcia will also work collaboratively across departments to support the equity, diversity, and inclusivity of ECU’s learning and research environments.
The position replaces the former role of Executive Director, Student Services.
“Throughout her career, Marcia has been devoted to the work of supporting student empowerment and creating more inclusive pathways toward professional development and student success,” Trish Kelly, Emily Carr’s Vice-President Academic and Provost, says. “I’m thrilled that she will be joining the university, and bringing her deep knowledge and expertise on individual and community wellness to our community.”
Marcia’s appointment follows an extensive search. Only applicants who identify as Indigenous or as a member of a racialized group were considered. This employment equity initiative, which was approved by the BC Human Rights Tribunal, was designed to ensure ECU’s senior leadership better reflects the diversity of the university community.
“Emily Carr has shown significant leadership in how they’ve conducted the search and in the fact that they created a space for Indigenous people and people of colour to apply,” Marcia says."
Meeting students where they're at
In 2001, Marcia graduated from SFU with a master’s degree in social sciences. Her master’s thesis was entitled “In the Spirit of Sharing: Honouring First Nations Educational Experiences.” It focused on the firsthand accounts of four Indigenous women as they journeyed through the post-secondary student experience — a perspective that, at that time, was largely unknown in academic literature.
Following graduation, Marcia initiated and led the development of the Strengthening Connections program. The initiative brought post-secondary recruiters into key on-reserve areas around BC to build stronger relationships with Indigenous communities, provide information on application processes, and foster interest in enrolment amongst Indigenous youth. The program, which proved an enormous success, is still running more than a decade later.
Marcia spent three years working for the First Nations Education Steering Committee. In 2009, she worked for the BC Assembly of First Nations in support of the Regional Chief at the time, the Honourable Jody Wilson-Raybould. From 2012 to 2015, she served as an elected member in Nisga’a government. There, she ushered in a program to bring Nisga’a language-learning to the community of 1400 Vancouver urban members of the Nisga’a Nation. She has also worked to support community-based initiatives for members in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside.
As Director of the Indigenous Student Centre at SFU, Marcia’s focus included providing full-spectrum support for the school’s Indigenous students. She oversaw initiatives including an elder-in-residence program, and a communal kitchen to help address food insecurity. She also started an ongoing series of town hall meetings where students offer feedback on university affairs to help shape future and ongoing programming.
In recent years, Marcia was a part of the SFU committee assembled to help direct the university’s adoption of specific calls to action advanced by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. In early 2020, Marcia helped launch the SFU-Langara Indigenous Transfer Pathway. The program was designed in partnership with Richard Ouellet, who was then the Director of Indigenous Education and Services at Langara College. The Transfer Pathway makes it easier for Indigenous students to transfer seamlessly from the college to the university as they pursue degrees.
“I believe in education that meets students where they are at,” she says. “I have found that listening to students and collaborating with colleagues has been a good way to offer programming that aims to meet student needs. I look forward to meeting and learning from the campus community of students, staff and faculty at Emily Carr, including BIPOC, LGBTQ2+, first-generation students and settler community members.”
Reflections on reconciliation
Looking back, Marcia says she’s hopeful about some of the changes her career has seen. She is also clear-eyed about the work that remains to be done to bring antiracism and equity practices more firmly into the institutional mainstream in Canada.
“When I finished my master’s thesis in 2001, the word ‘reconciliation’ wasn’t even on our radar, here in Canada,” she says. “Reconciliation is not an easy journey. It’s hard work talking about racism, talking about how to improve equity and diversity and inclusion in a meaningful way. It involves walking through different parts of colonial history that are painful to learn about, or to remember. It’s also taking a moment to reflect upon how we work together to create safe spaces to learn from this painful history, and how we strive to have respectful conversations about ways we can work together to do better.”
Education, she adds, is a tool. It can spark meaningful engagement with this difficult work. Educators can provide vital context at a critical time for student development. Context students will carry with them into their professional lives.
“Post-secondary institutions are spaces that graduate individuals who will be working in society as leaders, innovators and creators of change. These leaders will reflect their educational journey throughout their future endeavours,” she says.
“Decolonizing and Indigenizing that experience, and working to ensure equity, diversity, and inclusion within all post-secondary campuses is a new journey for many institutions. It is an important journey for all of us. I look forward to joining the community of Emily Carr on this important journey together.”