Dion Kaszas: Acadia’s New Indigenous Student Advisor

Dion Kaszas started his new position as Acadia’s Indigenous Student Advisor on November 5, 2018. Before coming to Acadia, Kaszas worked as a cultural tattoo practitioner in Salmon Arm, British Columbia. With a clear mission to populate the artistic landscape with Indigenous faces, he started the revival of his ancestral tattooing tradition in 2012. Always passionate about his work, he’s now regarded as one of the leaders of the revival of Indigenous tattooing in Canada.

After completing a Masters’ degree in Interdisciplinary Graduate Studies with a specialization in Indigenous Studies at UBC, Kaszas decided to pursue a slightly different career path. He researched student advisor positions in universities across Canada and applied to a variety of them. While he believed working at Acadia and Wolfville would provide him with many opportunities to connect with the local Mi’kmaq communities, what attracted him the most to Acadia, is “its history of innovation and it’s commitment to moving forward in ways that aren’t always the norm,” he says, He adds that the university’s strong teamwork ethic is something that sets it apart from other universities in Canada.

“The thing I found most exciting about the university and its capacity for supporting Indigenous Students, was how everybody was so focused on sharing, brainstorming and coming up with ideas to help students,” he says.

Although he’s new to this role, Kaszas is excited to implement new strategies and ideas that benefit Indigenous students and ensure they’re represented in the university environment.

“One of the important things for Indigenous students, using myself as an example because I was an Indigenous student at one time, is being able to see myself reflected back, wherever I am on campus,” he says.

“As an Indigenous student in a university, you want to know there are people you can identify with that you don’t have to explain your identity to, or have to stand up for your experience and/or the experience of Indigenous people in general.”

Kaszas says another goal he will prioritize is to assist Acadia in its process of decolonization.

“There’s a necessity to insist that the local Mi’kmaq communities are involved in this process of decolonizing Acadia,” he explains. “For me, it’s important to focus on the 15 goals that the Decolonizing Committee Advisory put forward for the process of decolonization at Acadia. We need to bring more Indigenous students to campus and hire more Indigenous faculty. We need more teaching subjects that have to do with Indigenous worldviews and knowledge, and it’s important that we support those who have that knowledge.”

Kaszas looks forward to serving the Mi’kmaq community and Acadia and is “honoured and thankful to be in Mi’kma’ki the unceded territory of the Mi’kmaq.” He also adds that he wants to ensure his department becomes a vibrant place that supports Indigenous students on campus and extends an open invitation to students to stop by and say hello.

To find out more about the office of Acadia Indigenous student advisor, contact aboriginal@acadiau.ca.

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