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Capilano University Celebrates Opening of Aboriginal Student Centre

NORTH VANCOUVER, BRITISH COLUMBIA -- (Marketwire) -- 02/01/13 -- Capilano University marked the official opening of its new Aboriginal Student Centre with a ceremony held today featuring Coast Salish traditions and performers.

The goal of the new facility is to enhance the infrastructure of support for First Nations learners, ultimately improving the participation and success rates of students attending Capilano University in North Vancouver, Squamish and on the Sunshine Coast.

"This facility supports our mission to create a supportive, respectful and friendly environment that reflects the culture and traditions of our Aboriginal learners," said Dr. Kris Bulcroft, President and Vice-Chancellor of Capilano University who often participates in the cultural and learning events taking place in Kexwusm-ayakn. "We have been able to build a 'home away from home' where students' educational, spiritual and cultural needs are met, allowing them to achieve academic success and maximize their potential to be agents of change in their communities, and beyond."

Kexwusm-ayakn-the name given to the student centre by the Squamish Nation-means a place to meet in their traditional language. Kexwusm-ayakn features computer work stations with Internet access, a lounge area with video screens, and a kitchenette, providing a comfortable space where students can gather to study, work together on projects and share meals.

"By providing funding for this Aboriginal Student Centre, our government is helping to ensure students have a supportive environment that will help them to do well in their studies, and develop the skills they need to be successful in British Columbia's workforce," said John Yap, Minister of Advanced Education, Innovation and Technology.

The student centre is also home to the offices of the university's First Nations Student Services team who serve as advocates for Aboriginal learners, providing consultation on course selection and registration, and a variety of other support for students to achieve educational success.

"A gathering place dedicated to Aboriginal students helps promote inclusion and a sense of identity which is necessary to build both capacity and capability," said First Nation student advisor David Kirk who is a member of the Sto:lo Nation. "Kexwusm-ayakn provides a safe, supportive and positive environment which is especially important for students who are away from their band homes for the first time."

Additional guidance and mentorship is provided by the members of Kexwusm-ayakn's Elders-in-Residence program who engage students by sharing their knowledge and Aboriginal teachings.

Since Capilano University opened more than 40 years ago, the number of Aboriginal students attending has increased, particularly over the past six years which have seen a 15 per cent increase overall. More than 300 Aboriginal students, representing a broad cross-section of First Nations from across Canada, including Metis and Inuit, are enrolled for the 2012/2013 semester in all faculties and programs.

The student success rate-the completion of a program or degree-for Aboriginal students has also increased each year since 2005, with a 45 per cent increase overall.

Kexwusm-ayakn was designed by Alfred Waugh, partner in Formline Architecture + Urbanism. The award-winning architect-perhaps best known for designing the Squamish Lil'wat Cultural Centre in Whistler-is one of the few professionally registered Status Indian architects in Canada. Of Chipewyan heritage, Waugh, who is based on the North Shore, also designed two adjacent outdoor pavilions that will be used for ceremonies and educational gatherings.

Capilano University is a learner-centred university that serves the communities of the Lower Mainland, Howe Sound, and the Sunshine Coast through campuses in North Vancouver, Squamish and Sechelt. Enrolment totals 7,500 students in credit programs each term with an additional 7,000 people taking non-credit courses annually. Capilano offers a complete range of preparatory courses, university-level arts and science courses, business and management studies, creative and applied arts programs, health and human services programs, plus a range of services in support of student learning and success. Credentials awarded include bachelor degrees, associate degrees, post-baccalaureate diplomas, advanced diplomas, diplomas, certificates and statements of completion. More information can be found at www.capilanou.ca.

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