Ch’nook Indigenous Business Education prepares students for the next career step

Douglas Dame on a beach.
Posted 2020-10-29
Douglas Dame relishes every opportunity to get involved in projects in his community, especially if the work takes him outdoors. Over the years, he’s taken on a wide variety of roles for Malahat Nation, a Coast Salish community located on the Saanich Inlet on Southern Vancouver Island. The 45-year-old father of two young boys enjoys serving his people while developing his management skills and leadership potential.

“I’ve run a lot of different community programs,” says Dame. “I like to lead and I really enjoy working with people. I understand that you need to involve people in the big picture to keep them motivated and moving forward.”

Having excelled in a number of coordinator roles for Malahat Nation, including assisting with the emergency management plan for COVID-19, Dame is seeking a management position where he can lead a team and take on more responsibility. To increase his qualifications, he enrolled in the Aboriginal Management Program (AMP), offered by UBC Sauder’s Ch’nook Indigenous Business Education. Open to Indigenous learners from across Canada, the five-month program integrates core business disciplines and management skills with practical experience.

“Our mission is to provide Indigenous-centred business education, networking opportunities and access to resources for Indigenous learners, leaders and entrepreneurs,” says Erin Catherall, AMP Manager. 

“Ch’nook supports UBC students, staff and faulty by creating avenues for cross-cultural understanding and strives to address the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action and recommendations outlined in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.”

Douglas Dame in a forest with a laptop.

Online education means Douglas Dame can study at home and keep up with his other responsibilities. 

Dame and his cohort of 13 explored core business topics such as Economics, Strategy, Marketing, Human Resources, Operations, Finance and Accounting. As part of the program, they developed a capstone project and applied their key learnings to design a business plan for a new product, service or initiative.

“My project was focused on supplying sea cans or metal shipping containers for use as a storage option. I got great feedback from the business experts on the panel who listened to our presentations. The next phase is to find a reliable supplier and a good price and then I want to do a full business plan and explore things like bringing in investors.” 

Normally, the AMP certificate program is delivered in three modules, taught on campus, with assignments and readings between modules. Graduation is usually in June, but with the arrival of COVID-19 in March, the program was moved online and students began meeting on Zoom.

“It’s worked out really well,” says Dame. “Once you get over the learning curve of online studies, you just start plugging into the different modules. Being online allowed me to stay here at home and tend to my responsibilities, but at the same time I could still communicate with my professors and see the people in my cohort.”

Douglas Dame with family members.

Dame and his family members hold a meeting at a store in the Malahat Business Park.

Dame is enjoying the process of making connections between his career experience and his business studies. A couple of years ago, he was a Land Use Planning Coordinator and was involved in the planning and ratification process for a proposed economic development project in Malahat Nation. The initiative included construction of a business park of serviced, industrial lots available for lease to local businesses.

“I met with Malahat members to share the details of the proposed plan and urged people to vote. Members did come out and vote and they accepted the plan to build a 55-acre business park,” explains Dame.

Other recent developments at Malahat Nation include a solar power project to deliver clean energy and an eco-tourism attraction called the Malahat Skywalk, which will take visitors through an arbutus forest and up a 40-metre-high spiral structure to a lookout offering views of Finlayson Arm and beyond.

It’s these types of projects that make Dame feel excited about his community’s future. To increase his qualifications for a management role within his nation, he also enrolled in a project management course offered by Ch’nook. 

Douglas Dame with his sons.

Dame places a high value on education and is raising his sons to be curious about the world. 

The online summer course turned out to be transformational. “It taught me a lot about the coordinating and planning functions of a project,” he says. “I’ve always enjoyed getting out of the office and doing the running around, but now when I look through a project management lens, I see that I can build in a lot of efficiencies.”

For his final assignment, Dame applied project management principles to improve the functionality of his house. He assessed which spaces were functioning well and which were underutilized. He and his family mapped their lifestyles, including different seasonal activities, and then Dame reconfigured the existing square footage. In doing so, he created enough space for his sons, aged 10 and seven, to each have their own room.

Douglas Dame with his family on the beach.

The beach is a favourite place for Dame, his partner Leah and their two sons, Ethan and Kamren.

“Malahat Nation is where my family and I live, work and play,” says Dame. “We love it here. It’s our home. Malahat culture is alive and growing and I want to be part of my community’s future direction.”

Dame presented his capstone project in early October and fulfilled the requirements for graduation. With his new credentials, he plans on applying for business management positions in Malahat Nation as well as in the wider community.

“I’m hoping my education will not just provide me with knowledge, but it will also give me the armour I need when applying for jobs,” says Dame. “When you say the letters UBC, it stops people in their tracks. It gives you credibility.”

UBC Sauder School of Business is proud to work with Salish Eye Productions on this story.