Talking respect with Sara Swasson (Aboriginal Student Advisor)

- September 26, 2016

Aboriginal Student Advisor Sara Swasson. (Jordan Zarvie photo)
Aboriginal Student Advisor Sara Swasson. (Jordan Zarvie photo)

September 26-30 is Respect Week at Dalhousie, and all week we'll be publishing Q&As with just some of the individuals across the university who are working to make our community more safe and inclusive while also building a sense of pride. Learn more about Respect Week.

Name:  Sara Swasson        

Hometown: Listuguj Mi’gmaq First Nation, located on the Quebec border to Campbellton, New Brunswick.

What do you do at Dal: Aboriginal Student Advisor

What does safety mean (look like for) to your community?
To be able to have safe spaces on campus that students can access. The Aboriginal Student Centre offers a safe space for our Aboriginal student population—having a space on campus that Aboriginal students can feel that they belong. For example, in the ASC students are able to practice traditional smudging any time during the day. Aboriginal students from many different nations come to the ASC and always find a common thread that brings them together. Many of the students describe the centre as a home away from home. The ASC is able to facilitate that feeling of belonging to our Aboriginal students.

Describe the Aboriginal Student Centre and how it helps support respect on campus.
The Aboriginal Student Centre supports respect on campus by providing a safe space not only for our Aboriginal students but also all Dalhousie students. Students from any background can come to the ASC and ask questions of things they are not sure of. We provide a safe space to ask those questions you are sometimes too afraid to ask because you are afraid to offend someone. For example: what do Aboriginal students want to be called Native, First Nation, and Indigenous…etc? As was covered by the CBC last week: "it's about showing respect and using the term that individuals and organizations have chosen for themselves."

What value does an event like Respect Week have for you? Why do you think it’s important for Dalhousie?
Respect week gives students an opportunity to be exposed and to explore other cultures and backgrounds outside of our comfort zones. It opens the door to respectful conversations on campus.

What it something about the Dalhousie community that makes you feel proud, safe, and/or included?
I am proud that Dalhousie acknowledges that the university sits on traditional Mi’kmaq territory and that the university will on October 6th permanently raise the Mi’kmaq flag on the Studley campus. I am proud the university supports (initiatives?) like the annual Mawio’mi and that the university supports the ASC in the day to day operations.

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