Intercultural Learning at TRU
Thompson Rivers University is located on the Tk’emlups te Secwepemc Territory - situated in the Southern
Interior of British Columbia within the unceded traditional lands of the Secwepemc Nation. The region includes
7 nations: Dákelh Dené, Ktunaxa, Secwepemc, St’át’imc, Syilx,
Tsilhqot’in, and Nlaka’pamux.
Intercultural Learning at TRU
TRU is a culturally diverse community. Faculty, staff, and students represent Indigenous, regional,
national, and global communities. Increasing intercultural understanding is one of TRU’s five
Strategic Priorities with the aim of supporting “diversity, inclusion and intercultural understanding
between our Aboriginal, local, regional and global communities” (Strategic Priorities, 2014,
The Academic Plan seeks to engage students in cultural understanding:
Educational and delivery models should incorporate intercultural experiences for all TRU
students. The development of these learning modes is reflexive, inspiring students and faculty to integrate
reflections on Aboriginal cultures and histories into their work, as well as local, national and
international frames of reference. Focusing on culturally aware education, practice and scholarship enables
the development of a just and inclusive university community (Academic Plan, 2011, p.10).
Thompson Rivers University has a unique student demographic; over 10% of students are Indigenous from a
variety of nations, another 20% join us from more than 85 countries around the globe. It is also very
likely that immigration will increase in the Kamloops region; indeed, according to Statistics Canada (2009)
by 2031 almost half (46%) of Canadians over the age of 15 will have been born outside of Canada or have at
least one parent born in another part of the world. Nationally, there has been an 119% increase in
international students since 2008. (CBIE, 2018). Indigenous youth are one of the fastest growing
populations (UNIVCAN, 2015); over 400,000 Indigenous youth in Canada will be entering the labour force over
the next decade (CIC, 2015).
All of these demographic shifts present higher education with unique opportunities and challenges.
Intercultural approaches can enhance learning and teaching environments and provide a foundation for
educators to respond the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action which include:
“Build student capacity for intercultural understanding, empathy, and mutual respect” (Call
63.iii) and “this will require skills based training in intercultural competency, conflict
resolution, human rights, and anti-racism” (Calls 24, 28, 57, 92iii)
Kyra Garson is currently a faculty member in the Faculty of Student Development who works as
the coordinator for interculturalization on campus. She is also an intercultural trainer and
researcher who has developed and delivered professional development programs to educational
institutions across Canada and internationally, as well as organizations and community groups
committed to diversity initiatives. Her research interests include faculty development,
multicultural group work and intercultural and global learning as core competencies for the 21st
century. Kyra’s doctoral study entitled “Are We Graduating Global Citizens?”
received the Canadian Society for the Study of Higher Education’s dissertation of the year
award in 2014
Brad Harasymchuk began his career as a teacher. He has taught in elementary, secondary and
post-secondary institutions in Canada and New Zealand. He completed his Master’s thesis at
the University of Saskatchewan, which focused on place-based education (PBE). This research evoked
a passion for social justice and PBE, which led him to pursue a PhD at the University of Canterbury
in New Zealand where he delved deeper into critical pedagogies of place and decolonization. Brad is
currently a Learning Strategist in the Faculty of Student Development. He has been working with the
Intercultural Development Inventory since 2017.
Amie McLean is an Intercultural Coordinator in the Faculty of Student Development at TRU. Her background is in Sociology and her work has consistently focused on issues of equity, inclusion, and social justice in Canada. She is a Thompson Rivers’ alumni who went on to examine post-secondary education funding policies for Indigenous students for her Master’s degree. Her SSHRC-funded Ph.D. dissertation from Simon Fraser University examined the dynamics of culture, class, race, and gender in the BC-based long haul trucking industry. Her published work has examined issues of diversity, (in)equity, and inclusion/exclusion in policy, education, and the workplace.
Idah Msiska Watson
Originally from Zambia, Idah Msiska Watson is a zealous Communications graduate from Thompson
Rivers University (TRU) with a special kindheartedness for helping others. Having lived and studied
in three different countries (Zambia, South Africa and Canada), Idah is culturally competent,
emotionally intelligent, and possesses a genuine passion for intercultural relations. Through
various projects at TRU, including her current role as Assistant International Student Advisor,
Idah continues to enjoy the privileges of meeting and supporting students from all walks of life.
As a former international student herself, she has made it her mandate to ensure that every new
student to TRU is safely integrated into the University and Canadian culture. Idah is well known
throughout the TRU Kamloops campus and community for her empathy towards others and keen interest
in learning and understanding cultural values. Her expertise in intercultural relations stem from
extraordinary life experiences, which includes world travel, international studies, and a decorated
undergraduate education, making her a valuable Intercultural Development Inventory (IDI)
facilitator at TRU.