July 8, 2021

Summer student to raise awareness of Indigenous communications strategies

RJ Taylor joins the Indigenous Research Support Team as part of the Indigenous Summer Student Program
The land of Treaty 7 by Tahlisha North Peigan
Tahlisha North Peigan

For RJ Taylor, a born-and-raised Calgarian and a member of the Siksika First Nation, communications and media are about more than advertising, billboards and marketing. Communications and messaging have the power to impact people’s lives, a communications concept Taylor, BCMS'20, takes very seriously.

“I take inspiration from visual stimulants such as art and architecture, design and style," says Taylor. "There’s a cognitive complexity that we have as humans when interpreting a message, abstract thought and the organization of something. I find visuals to be fascinating practices to inform and communicate, and ultimately how we, as humans, construct meaning that I find exciting and engaging."

In May, Taylor joined the Indigenous Research Support Team as its digital and design co-ordinator via the University of Calgary’s Indigenous Summer Student Program (ISSP). Taylor first heard about the ISSP while attending the 2020 Treaty 7 Economic Development Corporation Summer Student Hiring Fair.

The ISSP was launched in 2019 as a career-development program for Indigenous students at UCalgary. It was created to provide students with opportunities to develop their skills and work towards their professional and academic goals as a partnership between UCalgary’s Talent Acquisition team, Community Futures Treaty 7 and the Rupertsland Institute.

The ISSP aims to honour Indigenous ways of knowing, being, doing and connecting in its approach. A key offering of the ISSP is the chance for students to build meaning relationships and receive mentorship from peers, Elders and community.  

Digital and design co-ordination

Taylor holds a diploma from SAIT in radio, television and broadcast news and a Bachelor of Communications and Media Studies from UCalgary, and will complete his Master of Management through the Haskayne School of Business in 2022.

“Indigenous culture has often been homogenized, tokenized and misinterpreted. The goal of my role this summer is to shed awareness on the diversity and flexibility of Indigenous culture while also laying a foundation of identified truths and constants while spreading awareness of the Indigenous Research Support Team unit.”

In this seasonal position, Taylor will be working on several projects ranging from developing and organizing communication materials, creating an Indigenous communications manual, and designing the team’s visual language and brand identity. He will also be collaborating with the Office of Indigenous Engagement to create a video series about culturally appropriate Elder engagement and protocol.

“As the digital and design co-ordinator for the Indigenous Research Support Team, my job is to consider notions of messaging and critically examine existing ideas, imagery and news to develop a clear overview of the team’s role in systems and processes of communication,” says Taylor.

Taylor is the first to take on this unique design role within the team. In addition to the projects that he will be working on, he is tasked to not only establish the position, but to affirm Indigenous research from an Indigenous-communications lens. “With a bit of luck, I hope to create a decent foundation for future communicators’ role in spreading awareness of Indigenous Research and the valuable supports offered through the Indigenous Research Support Team,” he says.

The Indigenous Summer Student Program (ISSP)

“My hope for the students who are hired for a summer position is for them to be happy, healthy and feel supported, and that their summer positions will contribute in some way to the incredible things that they will go on to do for themselves, their families and their communities," says Lauren Remple, talent acquisition strategist and manager of the ISSP.

This year, the ISSP hired nearly double the number of positions than in previous years. “Watching the program grow from an idea around a sharing circle to a program that supports the career growth of 27 Indigenous students is a highlight of the work," says Remple.

Inspiring reconciliation within research through communication and digital design

The entrepreneurial spirit of UCalgary’s Growth through Focus inspires a bold way forward through transdisciplinary scholarship, forward-thinking programming and community-focused research partnerships. Following with the Indigenous Strategy, ii' taa'poh'to'p, the advancement of this 10-year plan further accentuates the need for communications and media coverage that highlight Indigenous perspectives in research, technology and innovation.

In this way, researchers will have to be guided and inspired in their journey of reconciliation within their research," says Taylor. "I think Indigenous ways of knowing is not only limited to just Indigenous researchers and initiatives. The goal is to spread a way of thinking differently and holistically about one’s own truth before engaging with the other. Only then will academics create meaningful and impactful works of research.” 

To learn more about the Indigenous Research Support Team, visit its website.

For more information about the Indigenous Summer Student Program (ISSP), click here.

ii’ taa’poh’to’p, the University of Calgary’s Indigenous Strategy, is a commitment to deep evolutionary transformation by reimagining ways of knowing, doing, connecting and being. Walking parallel paths together, “in a good way,” UCalgary is moving toward genuine reconciliation and Indigenization.