June 8, 2022

Partners in reconciliation at the Haskayne School of Business

Maria Big Snake and Joel English-Dubois honour the work of the late David Lertzman through new block week course
Joel English-Dubois
Joel English-Dubois

“May the seeds you planted continue to flourish.”
– Dr. Julian Norris’s tribute to the late Dr. David Lertzman

It’s been over a year since the tragic passing of Haskayne’s beloved Dr. David Lertzman, PhD. Since that time the UCalgary and Haskayne community have come together to grieve, share memories and continue to learn from Lertzman’s vast and impactful body of work.

In the spring of 2021, Lertzman planted two seeds when he started working with Indigenous Haskayne MBA graduates Maria Big Snake, MBA’20, and Joel English-Dubois, MBA’20. They became his teaching assistants for what would be the last class he ever taught. But more than that, Maria and Joel became close friends with Lertzman.

"David afforded us the opportunity to share at the same level as him. He paved the way. He was the definition of an ally and had a genuine appreciation for the Indigenous Peoples,” reflects Big Snake.

With the help of Haskayne faculty and community members, Big Snake and English-Dubois completed the instruction and grading for Lertzman's last course. Throughout the summer and fall of 2021, they honoured Lertzman's work by creating a Bachelor of Commerce block week course called Partners in Reconciliation (OBHR 517 – Indigenous Peoples and Sustainable Development).

Big Snake reflects that they could both feel Lertzman's presence as they were going through the course. “We took David’s original framework and transitioned it to Partners in Reconciliation. He allowed us to share our cultural experience and created a pathway for us to develop something new.” 

English-Dubois mentions that many students were either international students or first-generation Canadians. For some, the history of Indigenous Peoples in Canada was completely new. And for many, leaving their communities in search of safety deeply resonated with them.

Simone Noronha

Simone Noronha

“My parents are immigrants to Canada and I saw the discrimination they faced. I developed a deep sense of empathy,” says fourth-year student Simone Noronha. She also notes how representation matters — something she wasn’t getting in her high school courses. “I did some research on the course instructors before the class started. It was so nice to know they are both Indigenous.”

The course itself requires students to conduct deep reflective work. Students analyzed their perceptions and biases of truth, reflected on reconciliation and explored the topic of allyship. As the final output of the course, students produced a reconciliation framework for an organization in health care, education or commercial goods.

“Students were extremely open and mindful of the information. Near the end of the class you could feel their perspectives shift to thoughtful change and inclusion, including how they can make a difference when they enter the workforce,” says English-Dubois.

About Haskayne’s Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Committee

The Haskayne School of Business recently formed an Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Committee that will address challenges faced by equity-deserving individuals in our community, including Indigenous Peoples. The committee is co-led by Dr. Sandy Hershcovis, PhD, and Sherry Weaver. A comprehensive EDI strategy is expected to be completed this year.

About ii’ taa’poh’to’p

ii’ taa’poh’to’p, the University of Calgary’s Indigenous Strategy, is a commitment to deep evolutionary transformation by reimagining ways of knowing, doing, connecting and being. Walking parallel paths together, “in a good way,” UCalgary is moving toward genuine reconciliation and Indigenization.