Queen’s professors win Ideas Worth Teaching Award

Award recognizes educators using business to make the world a more inclusive place

Professor Lindsay (Kawennenhá:wi) Brant is one of the co-instructors for the course, alongside Professor Kate Rowbotham.
Supplied by Lindsay Brant
Two Queen’s educators have won an Ideas Worth Teaching award for a business course that teaches students how to integrate traditional Indigenous ways of knowing with modern business practices in the workplace.
Lindsay (Kawennenhá:wi) Brant, Educational Developer in Indigenous Pedagogies and Ways of Knowing and adjunct lecturer at Smith School of Business, and Kate Rowbotham, Assistant Professor and Distinguished Faculty Fellow of Organizational Behaviour, were one of eight recipients of this year’s Ideas Worth Teaching Award for their course COMM 354 Relationships and Reconciliation in Business and Beyond.
The Ideas Worth Teaching Award, established in 1999 by the Aspen Institute’s Business and Society Program, recognizes some of the foremost business educators around the world each year who commit to making a more inclusive, sustainable society through commerce.  
In an interview with The Journal, Brant said this course seeks to demonstrate how Indigenous ways of knowing can be compatible with capitalism and the corporate sector.
“[Students] are really puzzled at first when they take the course and see concepts like capitalism and then Indigenous ways of knowing, which are seemingly polar opposites, but then we kind of explore some ways that those can converge and collide,” she said.  
According to Brant, this course was developed through many discussions between herself and Rowbotham. Both educators wanted to make sure Indigenous students at Queen’s felt they were reflected in the curriculum.
“Kate had been teaching in in Smith for a while, and had said that there were Indigenous students there, but they didn’t really have a home or a course where they felt connected and had their worldviews represented,” Brant said. 
“She knew that I had taught a similar type of course at St. Lawrence College previously, so she approached me and said, ‘Do you think we could bring something like that to Queen’s?’”
COMM 354 opens with a focus on Indigenous culture, ways of knowing, and creation stories. It then explores how to apply these concepts to the classroom and the business sector. 
It also introduces students to Indigenous entrepreneurship and encourages them to consider the role of documents, like the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Final Report and the United Nations Declaration of Rights of Indigenous Peoples in building relationships with Indigenous people and communities.
One of the unique features of COMM 354 is its focus on the Indigenous medicine wheel, which is used to guide students’ physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual growth and development throughout the course. Another is the special emphasis it places on community and collaboration by encouraging students to establish guidelines for learning in cooperation with each other.
The course’s assessments also differ from traditional business courses. Instead of graded assessments, students participate in reflective exercises such as journal entries to contemplate the ways the content has affected them, and then suggest a grade for themselves at the end of the course.
“We’ve taken an ‘ungrading’ approach, which I think is innovative and new for students, especially in business where they’re used to a very competitive environment.” Brant said. 
“[Ungrading] really de-emphasizes that competitive aspect allows [students] to focus on their learning,”Brant says reception to the course has been very positive, with students attesting to the value of using Indigenous ways of knowing to foster more inclusive workplaces and challenge existing injustices in the business community. 
According to her, this is an especially vital asset to have in an increasingly diverse world.
“[Kate Rowbotham and I] are both so proud of this course, so it was just an honor to receive the award. We knew that with the award, the recognition that it would bring would enable us to tell the story of the course and why we created it, and hopefully inspire other business schools to do something similar,” she said.
Relationships and Reconciliation in Business and Beyond is currently available to third- and fourth-year Commerce students and students in the Indigenous Studies program. A condensed version was taught to MBA students this summer as a part of Smith’s Summer Enrichment Program

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