Trinity Western University now has Siya:m

Patti Victor is the university's first Siya:m, and will work to mentor students of aboriginal descent.

In co-operation with the TWU Aboriginal Partnership Council, Trinity Western University has hired Patti Victor as its first University Siya:m.

“Siya:m” is a Sto:lo word describing a leader recognized for wisdom, integrity, and knowledge. Her primary role as Siya:m will be to provide both spiritual and personal mentoring to students of aboriginal descent, while also acting as a liaison between TWU and local aboriginal communities.

Victor is a current graduate student in the TWU Masters in Leadership program and pastor of Chilliwack Native Pentecostal Church.

“My role is one of mentorship and guidance,” she said. “I will assist the aboriginal and non-aboriginal members of TWU to come to a mutual appreciation and understanding of each other.”

As a learning coach she will also provide academic counselling for students and ensure that staff and faculty remain informed on significant aboriginal issues. In addition to filling this new role, Victor will continue to co-chair the TWU Aboriginal Partnership Council.

Led by Prof. Bob Burkinshaw, the initiative for the council began in 2009 and is composed of approximately 20 faculty and staff members. However, it was not until 2011 that it was formalized as a partnership council, rather than just a committee. As a true partnership, both sides now contribute equally and work together to fulfill the needs of the group and achieve its goals.

The new position of University Siya:m is part of the TWU’s larger initiative to increase aboriginal representation on campus and further welcome aboriginal culture into the already diverse student body. The Westcoast Collegium was recently designated as the official aboriginal gathering place for the campus and will soon be redecorated with select pieces of traditional native artwork.

This location was chosen because of its central location on campus, and to emphasize and encourage the integration of aboriginal and non-aboriginal students.

TWU recently hosted its first monthly “Circle Talk” session, where aboriginal and non-aboriginal students gathered to bond over open conversation and personal expression. A formal dedication and blessing of the space will take place in November with both aboriginal Christian leaders and local Sto:lo members expected to attend.