University of Manitoba organizing virtual 'living' library with prominent Indigenous alumni

The University of Manitoba will be organizing a virtual living library event with influential Indigenous alumni on Oct. 2 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

This living library will allow “readers” to engage and interact with alumni as “living books” and learn from their journeys.

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“Our main goal is to connect Indigenous students with alumni who have volunteered their time to share their stories and answer questions that folks might have about what their experiences have been like,” said the U of M Director of Indigenous Achievement Ruth Shead on Monday.

“It is a very interactive event. It builds community, and it is an opportunity to learn from those who have gone on an educational journey before them. It also allows us to celebrate incredible Indigenous alumni for contributing and making our province, country and even the world a better place.”

The event will be divided into four sessions with each session lasting for an hour. It will be hosted on Zoom and streamed on the U of M’s Indigenous student centre’s Facebook page.

Diane Roussin, who holds a Bachelor of Social Work degree from U of M, will be among the alumni that would be speaking during the event. She is Anishinaabe and has family from Skownan First Nation, Treaty 2 Territory.

“The written format is very prominent in academics. So the idea that people can be “living books,” and the idea that we can do this in a verbal way is very now,” she said.

Roussin runs a social lab which centres on the ideas and experiences of the community and combines them with data to support community development. Her work focuses on Indigenous social innovation, including Indigenous wisdom.

“I want to bring forward the message that Indigenous ways, worldview and experiences hold up a lot of untapped potential for all the challenges that we are facing as a society. I feel like our ways have not been tapped by mainstream society, and I think there is a golden opportunity here for our ways to be put forward,” said Roussin.

Raven-Dominique Gobeil, an Associate for Cochrane Saxberg Johnston, Johnson and Scarcello LLP, believes that a virtual event like this is important.

“When you read things on paper, sometimes you can miss out on tone and context. An event like this gives an opportunity to see and witness what the speakers are saying with their facial expression and body language,” she said.

Gobeil is an Anishinaabe-Kwe and Métis woman. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in Native Studies and Family Social Science from the U of M. She also graduated with her Juris Doctor from the U of M in June last year.

“The takeaway I want people to get after the event is to keep persevering and working hard to be in the best position possible,” said Gobeil.

“I started U of M when I was 18 for nursing, and then I graduated when I was 28 with a degree in law. There were a lot of shifts and turns, and complete redos while I was at the U of M. I think the message of perseverance is important, and that is what I want people to take away.”

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