Our Team

Sharon Hobenshield, Director, Office of Aboriginal Education and Engagement

Sharon Hobenshield is from the Gitxsan First Nations on her mother’s side and her father is of German ancestry. She has a B.A., B.S.W. and a Master’s of Education in the area of curriculum development. She has worked in the field of social services and education, working and teaching with both urban and rural Aboriginal communities throughout the province of BC. Sharon is married and has twin girls. She believes strongly in the spirit and resiliency of Aboriginal people and promotes that Aboriginal ways of knowing and being in this world, have to be built into program development and service delivery in education.

Sylvia Scow, Aboriginal Projects and Elder Support

Sylvia Scow is from the Dene Nation. Her home community is Liidli Kue (Fort Simpson), Northwest Territories. She received her Bachelor of Arts in Sociology and a minor in Anthropology from the University of Victoria. In June 2000, she completed her Masters of Arts in Leadership and Training from Royal Roads University. Sylvia is married with two children and has worked in post-secondary education since 1991.

Rob Mahikwa, Indigenous Education Navigator, Nanaimo campus

Rob Mahikwa is a descendant of Anishinaabe/Algonquin peoples; wolf clan.  Rob holds a BSW from UVic where he is currently completing a Masters degree in Indigenous Social Work. Additionally, Rob holds a Social Service Worker diploma and is a certified Life Skills Coach.  Rob has served Indigenous communities since 2005 and has worked in the field of Indigenous post-secondary supports, student leadership, career development training, and wholistic counselling services since 2011.

  Tasha Brooks, Indigenous Education Navigator, Cowichan campus

Tasha Brooks is from the Cowichan Tribes.  She holds a Master of Business Administration and Bachelor of Business Administration from VIU.  Tasha is currently working on a Doctorate and hopes her research will contribute to Indigenous Education.  In her free time she likes to hike, workout, and listen to audio books. 

  Sherry Mattice, Indigenous Education Navigator, Nanaimo & Powell River Campuses

Sherry Mattice is from the Mowachaht/Muchalaht First Nation in the Nuu-Chah-Nulth Territory.  Sherry started her educational journey at VIU as an ABE students and obtained a Diploma in Business administration, a Bachelor of Business Administration with a concentration in Human Resource Management, a Master of Business Administration and a Master of Science in International Business from the University of Hertfordshire.  Sherry is passionate about helping the indigenous communities, and promoting education as a tool for success.

Sheila White, Indigenous Employment Navigator, Nanaimo Campus (on leave)

Sheila White’s traditional name is Yaatqumaat and she is a member of Snuneymuxw First Nation. She is a proud mother of 3 children and grandmother to 2 grandsons. Sheila completed her Bachelor of Arts Degree at VIU after spending many  years working in the Employment & Training Field. She comes to the position with over 20 years’ experience working in the field and holds a Diploma in Business Management from BCIT, Life Skills Coach certificate, Personality Dimensions Facilitator, Job Finding Club Facilitator and Employment Counselor certificate. She is looking forward to working within the VIU Community and getting to know more students and staff.

Pam Botterill, Aboriginal Outreach Coordinator

Pam Botterill joined the team as Aboriginal Outreach Coordinator in October 2014. Pam has a Masters in Professional Communication, as well as over 23 years of experience at VIU. She brings expertise in contract management including financial management, communications, and marketing to the team. Pam will engage with VIU’s internal and external communities to deliver relevant programs and services that meet the needs of Aboriginal learners and their communities. Pam is from the Wei Wai Kum First Nation but grew up in Powell River and has made Nanaimo her home since 1977.

Sheila Cooper, Indigenous Community Engagement Manager

Sheila Cooper’s background is in Adult Education and she holds a B.A. in Psychology and a Masters of Education in Curriculum Design and Instruction. Since 1990, Sheila has connected Vancouver Island University to community through her work in the field of continuing studies and contract training. Sheila engages with Indigenous communities and organizations to develop programs and services that provide flexible educational options to accommodate the changing needs of Indigenous learners and communities. Sheila is married with two adult children that are both passionate about the arts.

Tania Smethurst, Indigenous Portfolio Coordinator

Tania Smethurst is originally from Ontario, her ancestry is Scottish and Irish; and she has lived learned and played in both Kwakwaka'wakw and Coast Salish territories for all of her adult life. Tania has a Master’s degree in Developmental Psychology, and is a proud alumnus of VIU’s psychology department. Her background is in the field of Aboriginal health promotion, and wilderness therapy. She is honoured to have the privilege to be the Indigenous Portfolio Coordinator for the office, and work with students on their educational paths in life. Tania has a partner and a young daughter that is always teaching her about the beauty of life. Tania is passionate about empowering people to feel inspired in their lives, and the lessons one can learn while spending time in nature. Thank you to the Snuneymuxw peoples for allowing us to spend our days in your territories.

Heather Burke, Learning Facilitator

Heather Burke is Métis with ancestral roots stemming from the Red River Settlement. She also carries Russian, Irish, English, and American ancestry. She is a VIU Graduate (BA, Creative Writing) and recently obtained a Master of Arts in Professional Communication from Royal Roads University. Heather is the first person in her family to have a degree and as a result has become an advocate for learning. She has travelled extensively across BC and Canada to promote and connect Indigenous and non-Indigenous learners with post-secondary. She is passionate about writing, technology, discourse, and enjoys taking time to be in nature.

Kim Warkentine, Administrative Assistant to the Director

Kim Warkentine has lived back and forth between BC and Alberta most her life, and is happy to have found herself now in Nanaimo working at VIU. I have a BA in International Studies and Political Science from University of Northern BC, a MA in Political Science from University of Alberta, a Certificate in Project Management from NAIT, and a Certificate in Social Innovation from MacEwan University. I believe that education has the power to transform, and I am keenly interested in language, art, and travel.

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