ISP Engagement in Skylight

Implementing the UBC Indigenous Strategic Plan within UBC Skylight


In the summer of 2021, the Skylight team started a process of reflection, planning, and learning to work toward the goals outlined in UBC’s Indigenous Strategic Plan (ISP). Given that this work looks different in each unit and role, and individual team members were engaging from different starting points, our initial activities were focused on assessing readiness, engaging in learning, and discussing potential avenues for action as they relate to the work of our team members. The core planning and facilitation of this work was done by Gülnur Birol (Director, Skylight), Ashley Welsh (Faculty Liaison, CTLT/Skylight), and Zakir Suleman (Graduate Academic Assistant. Skylight).  

The sections below present a road map and resources for other groups interested in implementing the ISP within their academic unit at UBC. There are many ways to engage with the ISP and the ISP Implementation Toolkit. Our approach is just one model for how a unit/department can move forward with this important work. 

Skylight ISP Implementation Timeline

Below is a summary of when and how the Skylight team engaged with various aspects of the ISP and ISP Implementation Toolkit. Further details are included in the sections that follow.

Summer 2021 Fall 2021 Winter/Spring 2022 Summer 2022 Fall 2022
  • Initial planning and scoping for ISP Implementation in Skylight (Graduate Academic Assistant, Director, Faculty Liaison)
  • Primer survey
  • Land acknowledgement session
  • ISP goal alignment session
    • ISP Self-Assessment Tool
  • Indigenous initiatives resource discussions
    • UBC Language Guidelines
    • Time and Place at UBC
    • What I Learned in Class Today
    • Pulling Together: A Guide for Curriculum Developers (2 sessions)
  • Skylight ISP Retreat
    • ISP Self-Assessment Tool
    • Skylight brainstorming and visioning
    • Subgroup goal setting
    • Invited speaker
    • Personal, subgroup, and unit reflections
  • Revisiting 6-month goals and upcoming projects/ professional development

Stage 1: Primer Survey

To take the temperature of the unit, we began by distributing a short, open-ended, two-question survey. The goal was to coordinate our team members by getting a sense of their common needs and concerns. We asked the following questions in an anonymous Qualtrics survey: 

  1. What topics/aspects of decolonization/reconciliation would you like to learn more about? 
  2. What questions, concerns, and/or emotions do you have with respect to learning about and engaging in decolonization and reconciliation? 

We shared the results in a brief presentation at a later meeting. At this session, facilitators created space for staff to voice additional concerns or learning goals, either anonymously or openly.  


Stage 2: Land Acknowledgement Session

Based on the results of our survey, we first focused on increasing our unit’s familiarity with land acknowledgements. Land acknowledgements can serve as a jumping off point for people to learn about the history of colonization, learn about the Indigenous communities on whose lands they are situated, and to implicate themselves and their positionality in the process of existing on these lands. When framed correctly, land acknowledgements can be a way for people to build a sense of self-efficacy with this work while facilitating ongoing learning.  

The Skylight team was asked to complete the self-guided “Respect, Sincerity & Responsibility: Land Acknowledgements @ UBC” course and to write their own personal land acknowledgement. We then held a facilitated one-hour session where they practiced their land acknowledgments in pairs. The session framed land acknowledgements within the context of diverse Indigenous protocols and created space for team members to talk about their learning and ask questions stemming from the course. For many, this was the first time they had given a land acknowledgement in front of another person. Areas for future learning were captured in a Jamboard for later sessions. 


Stage 3: ISP Goal Alignment Workshop

Following the process outlined in the ISP Intent to Action Toolkit, we held a conversation about how to align Skylight’s mandate as a unit with UBC’s ISP goals. For this session, we decided we needed to establish a common understanding of what the unit was already doing. We started by creating a survey in Qualtrics out of the questions in the ISP Self-Assessment Tool. All team members were asked to answer the survey in advance of the session. 

Next, we discussed how we could find alignment between the ISP goals and our mandate. We based our process design for this session on the ISP Facilitator's Guide, with alterations for our specific context. Skylight, as a support unit within UBC, has multiple subgroups (LT, Science Education Specialists, etc.) which conduct differently focused, but related work. It was important for us to recognize this explicitly within the session to avoid overwhelming participants. The session began with a brief summary of responses to the ISP Self-Assessment survey results. This information served as a baseline of the extent to which team members felt they were ready, able, or unable to pursue the goals of the ISP. Next, unit leadership was asked to speak to the mandate of Skylight as a support unit. Staff in attendance were then asked to vote on which ISP goals most aligned with the mandate of the unit. This voting process was used as a springboard for a conversation about which goals should be the focus of Skylight’s work. While some consensus was achieved, we felt future sessions would be necessary. 


Please note, we altered the ISP Self-Assessment Tool rating scale to separate “No, not at all” responses from “Don’t know” responses. 

Stage 4: Review of Indigenous-Focused Curricular Resources 

After our discussion of the ISP goals, we agreed that our work aligned best with ISP Goal #4: Indigenizing our curriculum. Our team members were keen to learn more about resources that could inform their own learning in this space and how they could build capacity to advance Goal #4 within their own work and contexts. As such, we held three workshops in the 2021/2022 Winter Term 2 where we reviewed the following four resources:  

These sessions were facilitated by our Faculty Liaison who works closely with colleagues in the CTLT Indigenous Initiatives team and our Skylight Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion GAA. For each session, we asked the team to review the resource and to reflect on some guiding questions. Within the workshop, we had people engage with individual, small group, and whole group activities with the goal of enhancing their own understanding of the topics and to think through how we can advance the ISP and Indigenize the curriculum within our own contexts. 

Stage 5: Full-Day Retreat 

Skylight held a full-day (7 hour) retreat in July 2022 to work through the remaining workshops in the ISP Intent to Action Toolkit, and to develop a specific, measurable, and achievable set of actions to move our unit toward achieving our ISP goals. In preparation for this retreat, we asked the team to complete the ISP Self-Assessment Tool survey again as we had 5 new staff members who had missed the sessions in the fall of 2021.  

We began the retreat with a review of the team’s responses to the ISP Self-Assessment Tool, highlighting where similarities and differences existed among the responses. We then moved to a large group brainstorming discussion around our visions for how best to engage with the ISP. Since people in Skylight have varying roles, we divided staff into their various subgroups (LT, Science Education Specialists who are based in departments, Dean’s Office folks & Strategists) and asked them to develop one or two 6-month and 18-month goals for their group. Each group was also asked to reflect on how these goals would be achieved and measured. After a long lunch and an invited talk and discussion from Yukiko Stranger-Galey of the Beaty Biodiversity Museum about the Sturgeon Harpoon Knowledge Web, we ended our day by sharing our subgroup goals and a reflection activity to inform the next steps for Skylight’s engagement with the ISP. 


Learnings for Facilitators 

A few key lessons emerged for us that may be relevant to those implementing the ISP in their own units at UBC. 

  1. Review the ISP Implementation Toolkit that has been developed by the Office of Indigenous Strategic Initiatives to guide unit and departmental engagement with the ISP. We used the ISP Self-Assessment Tool on multiple occasions, as well as the facilitator’s guide and accompanying PowerPoint slides which really helped to shape our sessions.  
  2. People have different levels of comfort when it comes to this work, and as such, it’s useful to create various opportunities and ways for people to contribute. We used small group interactions with two or three participants, individual reflections, anonymous surveys, large group discussions, and brainstorming tools (e.g. Jamboard; whiteboards and sticky notes) to provide people with multiple ways to participate.  
  3. Creating a space to learn how to have these conversations together and develop trust is extremely important. These conversations can be emotional and uncomfortable. As such, it’s important to create a safe environment for sharing and discussion. The primer survey helped us to better understand everyone's level of comfort and, in each of our sessions, we reviewed some guidelines for respectful communication and participation.  
  4. This process is fundamentally grounded in learning. These subjects and learning can be difficult for people of all backgrounds, therefore it is important for the facilitators to be open and candid with participants. As a facilitator, being willing to take risks and address your own shortcomings can help others to feel safe taking chances to advance their learning. This could mean speaking to your own learning, how you are managing challenges, and being open to feedback.  
  5. If you are facilitating/leading your unit or department’s engagement with the ISP, we suggest you discuss your plans and responsibilities with leadership so that they are aware of the time and energy this work takes. It can be time-consuming and require more energy than expected, so it’s important that you stay in communication with leadership around the capacity and resourcing needed to properly engage people with the processes. 
  6. There are a number of amazing UBC resources and people who can help support your engagement with the ISP. Feel free to reach out to Skylight as a starting point ( and/or you can connect with people at the Office of Indigenous Strategic Initiatives for further consultation. 


We would like to acknowledge the various contributors to the UBC Indigenous Strategic Plan and the ISP Implementation Toolkit as well as our colleagues in the CTLT Indigenous Initiatives team and at the Office of Indigenous Strategic Initiatives. We would also like to thank Zakir Suleman for his energy and facilitation of this work with the Skylight team.  

Further Resources

You can find additional resources related to Indigenizing your curriculum on our Inclusive Teaching Resources page