When June Lulua began exploring her options for postgraduate management studies, the Tsilhqot’in Nation Health Governance Representative and Xeni Gwet’in First Nations Government project manager wanted to find a program through which she could enhance her work as an Indigenous consultant and entrepreneur. The Nemaiah Valley, B.C., resident applied for and was accepted into three different postgraduate programs, but it was the UBCO Master of Management at SE-Change that resonated most with her goals.
It was important for her to be in a program where she could engage with Indigenous issues, and in which her Indigenous perspective would be valued. “I felt that it was a program that I’d get out what I put in. There were practical core management subjects like finance and strategy, but I knew I’d be able to get creative with other aspects,” she explains. “I didn’t feel I could do that at the other institutions where I was accepted. And as it turned out, I was able to focus almost all of my assignments around current Indigenous issues.”
Building a Future
June started the part-time program in July, 2019, and graduated in August, 2021, completing her online coursework and classes on a schedule designed to fit into her professional obligations.
“It was easy to fit into my life, and I started two companies during the program,” she says, referring to TANAKUT Consulting, which works with Indigenous communities on project management, capacity building and strategic planning; and SPALYAN Education Group, which partners with universities and colleges to provide Indigenized training programs.
Throughout the 25-month program, which consists part-time online learning from September to June and three two-week summer intensives each July, June says she was surprised at how much she was able to connect with her academic supervisors. “We had a ton of opportunity for one-on-one,” she shares. “My primary and secondary supervisors were both available to me as much as I needed. That was pretty incredible.”
While she found her coursework manageable, June did face one challenge that her peers, who lived in more urban areas, didn’t. “We’re completely off the grid, and we have a generator for power,” she explains, about the home she shares with her husband and teenage daughter. “There were a lot of moments in class when I would hear my generator running out of gas and I’d have to tell everyone, ‘I have to leave, my computer’s going to shut off because my power’s going shut off, so give me 15 minutes!’”
Even with the added challenge of maintaining her internet connection from such a rural location, June was able to fully engage with her studies and develop a strong rapport with her cohort.
“There was a lot of reflecting in this program, and a lot of it was in forums,” she shares. “We were able to respond to each other and reflect with each other, which was really nice. We also had our own individual reflection journals. So we were able to post about our experiences in the program, but also keep a record of our experience through our research and dissertation experience, which is so interesting. I even look back on it sometimes.”
June’s rural Indigenous perspective was complemented by urban students working in finance and healthcare. That mix, she says, helped enhance the experience for everyone.
“I learned a little bit about the corporate life from the students who worked in finance—what makes the wheels go around in that world,” she notes. “And I shared a lot of my knowledge with the cohort about Indigenous concepts. I was able to bring forward different perspectives because I have my feet in two worlds.”
For her Applied Project—a focal point of the MM program, in which students conduct a management inquiry into a contemporary socio-economic issue—June conducted a research project on pre-colonial governance practices in her Tsilhqot’in community.
“Indigenous leaders do want to incorporate Indigenous law into policy,” she explains. “Every family has a different memory or different knowledge of historical governance, so having it in a research document is a way to bring together everyone’s perspectives.” The report is with the leadership of the First Nation, and has not been made public to the wider audience, but June hopes that it will help inform her community’s transition to full self-governance.
Looking Back, Looking Ahead
As she moves forward with plans to pursue a PhD in Indigenous Health, June is confident that the learning, friendships and connections she has made through the MM program will come with her. “I don’t ever want to lose contact, because I think that we can all benefit from staying in each other’s network,” she says.
Not only will the practical skills she gained serve her in the next chapter of her career, she says the self-discovery she experienced has provided her with greater confidence and insight. “Through my applied research project, I learned a lot about my identity as an Indigenous person, an Indigenous woman and as a matriarch,” she shares. “I learned the value of the knowledge that I have as an Indigenous knowledge keeper,” she continues. “I’ve become more confident with using my voice, and I’ve learned that there are really good people out there, and that I could trust these good people.”
As she looks back on the intense 25 months of the MM, she comes back to the support and guidance she received along the way. “A highlight of the program is having supervisors that really do care. The comments that I got back on my Applied Project were so supportive. Even though we’re finished, they’re still wanting to be involved in our lives I feel blessed to have such great academics in my life.” And she has some words of advice for the MM students to come. “I feel like it’s a program that you get out what you put in. The end goal is what you make of it.”