Dec. 19, 2022

Financial gift empowers Indigenous voices in architecture, planning

Donation by Alberta firm leads the way in making an architecture, planning or landscape architecture degree at UCalgary more accessible to Indigenous students
Jan Kroman, Jan Pierzchajlo and Jonathan Rockliff, from Kroman Pierzchajlo Rockliff Architects in Edmonton are the first to donate to SAPL’s aim of fostering a greater indigenous voice in the school and the profession in general. (Photo handout)

Edmonton architecture firm Rockliff Pierzchajlo Kroman Architects (RPK) is the first to provide financial backing to the School of Architecture, Planning and Landscape’s (SAPL) new initiative to increase the number of Indigenous practitioners in the city-building professions.

The $25,000 donation contributes to SAPL’s newly initiated Indigenous Pathways program which aims to grow the number of Indigenous students pursuing design-based careers, and empower more Indigenous voices in the fields of architecture, planning and landscape architecture.

  • Photo above: Jan Kroman, Jan Pierzchajlo and Jonathan Rockliff, from Kroman Pierzchajlo Rockliff Architects in Edmonton are the first to donate to SAPL’s aim of fostering a greater Indigenous voice in the school and the profession in general. 

“Having helped shape our shared environment for over 50 years, RPK is excited to build on this legacy and support the next wave of design professionals. Stemming from our community-first focus, we believe this scholarship will assist in breaking down systemic barriers, creating more equitable representation for design students that identify as Indigenous,” says Jan Kroman, principal with RPK Architects.

“We look forward to a future in which all voices and experiences guide our constructed environment.”

The Indigenous Pathways program takes a multifaceted approach to increasing Indigenous enrolment in the school. This includes offering outreach programs in First Nation high schools, introducing supplemental educational support during the degree program, integrating Indigenous ways of knowing into the curriculum, and providing much-needed financial support.

The long-term result of this program will be more Indigenous leadership in built environment projects that address today’s and tomorrow’s societal challenges, such as climate change and social justice, says SAPL Dean Dr. John Brown.

“This donation shifts the agenda from talking about Indigenous perspectives in shaping the built environment, to empowering more future Indigenous professionals to provide these perspectives, input, and leadership through their work as architects, planners, and landscape architects.”

According to the Assembly of First Nations (AFN), which represents more than 600 First Nations communities across Canada, while approximately seven in 10 First Nations youths aspire to complete a post-secondary degree, the federal Post-Secondary Student Support Program provides less than half the funding needed to support the number of First Nations learners qualified to attend a post-secondary institution.

Insufficient academic preparation, a low level of parental education, geographical distance, language and cultural differences, school-related factors, and personal barriers make it challenging for Indigenous students to apply to broader, established awards within academic environments. The result is that Indigenous students are dramatically under-represented across Alberta campuses.

RPK’s gift to SAPL not only helps address this inequity. It also points the way for other design firms.

“We hope that the momentum created by RPK’s leadership will inspire other city-building industry members to help us build our Indigenous Pathways program and ensure that the voices and worldviews of Indigenous people are better represented in Alberta’s city-building professions,” says Brown

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