UNB News
News and stories from one of Canada’s top universities

Creating safe and inclusive spaces for all students to learn and grow

Author: UNB Newsroom

Posted on Apr 14, 2023

Category: UNB Fredericton

Two students at the University of New Brunswick (UNB) have put their heart into creating a new initiative that focuses on educating students on Indigenous rights, history and ways of life.

During the 2022-23 academic year, Shilin Pentz and Arnab Mehfuz Taranga were team leads for their work-study placements at Heart to Heart, a program which bridges the gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous students.

Modelled after a program at the University of Saskatchewan called Building Bridges, Heart to Heart was created through a partnership between the Mi'kmaq-Wolastoqey Centre (MWC) and the International Student Advisor's Office (ISAO) at UNB.

After struggling to find a work-study job as a first-year bachelor of fine arts student in Sept. 2022, Pentz spoke with Kate Copage from the MWC, who shared her plan to create a program called Heart to Heart.

“I was thrilled to be a part of this project as a member of the Indigenous community,” said Pentz. “It's something I'm passionate about. It feels good to educate others about the issues while sharing my knowledge."

Pentz was involved in the interview process. She believed Taranga, a second-year honours sociology student, was the perfect candidate to represent the ISAO.

Together, Pentz and Taranga developed the groundwork for Heart to Heart. This included creating the logo based on the Indigenous medicine wheel, laying the foundation for the organization and researching how to present information about Indigenous communities in a non-triggering and respectful way.

In addition to their independent work, Pentz and Taranga met about five hours a week and met weekly with their supervisors, Copage and Hillary Nguyen from the ISAO.

They spent their time digging through the research, which formed the content for a poster campaign. They also worked closely with members of the MWC to ensure the accuracy of their information.

“The most important thing for us was to make sure that we didn't base our perspectives on outdated information,” said Pentz. “There were times when we would find information in a book, but then two pages later would realize that it was problematic.”

Pentz and Taranga developed many skills, including teamwork, graphic design, web development, time management and relationship building.

“Last semester was a huge learning curve for us,” said Taranga. “Much of the literature on Indigenous issues was written in the third person and, in most cases, was outdated and not written by someone from the Indigenous community."

The posters Pentz and Taranga designed were displayed in the halls of UNB’s Student Union Building throughout March.

“This year, we focused on creating the basic foundation of the program, research and seeing what other institutions were doing and coming up with ideas for future events,” said Taranga. “Next year, we are planning different activities to engage people and get them involved in the program.”

Through their experiences with Heart to Heart, Pentz and Taranga believe that by educating themselves and others on the history and experiences of Indigenous Peoples, they can work towards reconciliation and create a more equitable society for all.