Our Team

Sharon Hobenshield, Director, Office of Indigenous Education and Engagement

Sharon Hobenshield’s traditional name is Ha-Youly and belongs to the Wilp Malii from the Gitxsan First Nation on her mother’s side and is of German ancestry on her father’s side. She has a B.A., B.S.W., M.Ed. and EdD.  Her dissertation titled, Haq wil la hlo is sim: Walk Slowly on the Breath of your Ancestors was an examination of gift giving within Post-Secondary Education. Sharon has worked at Vancouver Island University since 2006 as the Director of Aboriginal Education and prior to that she worked in the field of social services and education, working and teaching with both urban and rural Indigenous communities throughout the province of BC. She believes strongly in the spirit and resiliency of Indigenous people and advocates for Indigenous led program development and community relevant services to support Indigenous learners access and success in their learning journeys. Sharon is a proud mother of twin girls and makes her home in Nanoose Bay with her partner and mother.

Sylvia Scow, Manager of Indigenous Protocol

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.

Naomi Bailey, Indigenous Education Navigator, Nanaimo campus

Naomi Bailey is one of our newest Indigenous Education Navigators. Naomi is an Alumna of VIU, a member of the Mid-Island Metis Association and was part of the 60’s scoop.  She comes to us with over 20 years’ experience in the K-12 system as an Academic Advisor, Teacher, Counsellor and Administrator within school district #68 and has well established relationships with Snaw-Naw-As, Stz’uminus, Snuneymuxw Nations as well as the Mid Island Metis Association. She has a great breadth and depth of experience and transferable skills that she will be bringing to the position.

Janis Jonasen, Indigenous Education Navigator, Nanaimo campus

Janis Jonasen is our newest Indigenous Education Navigator. Janis identifies as both white and Indigenous.  She is has many European roots and also belongs to the Gitxsan First Nation of Northern BC.  

Janis is a VIU Alumna and has a Masters Degree in Leadership and Training from Royal Roads University. She has built a network across BC, coordinating programs and providing support to Indigenous communities.  Janis is thrilled to be in the Indigenous Education Navigator position until Rob's return.  

Rob Mahikwa, Indigenous Education Navigator, Nanaimo campus (on leave)

Robert Mahikwa is a carrier of mixed Anishinaabe, Algonquin, Metis, french Canadian and American ancestry and has been a humble and grateful visitor on Snuneymuxw territories for many years. Robert holds a Master of Indigenous Social Work and a Bachelor of Social Work from the University of Victoria where he focused his studies on applied Indigenous Research Methodologies and culturally-informed approaches supporting Indigenous youth in and from child welfare. He is a certified Life Skills Coach, has worked directly with Indigenous communities and organizations since 2005, and he has been an Instructor at Vancouver Island University, the University of Victoria, and Camosun College collectively since 2016. Robert was also recently nominated for the National Emerging Voices in Indigenous Scholarship and Research Award from the University of Saskatchewan.

  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.

Clarissa Peter, Program Coordinator, 'su'luqw'a' Community Cousins program

‘Uy’ skweyul. Eenthu Yutetethu. Tun’ni’ tsun ‘utl’ Quw’utsun. My English name is Clarissa Peter, I am a band member of the Cowichan Tribes, born and raised in the Cowichan Valley. I am the granddaughter of Dennis & Philomena Alphonse, and Leonard & Marg Peter, and Ray Peter.  For a number of years I have worked in different departments in Cowichan Tribes, including Treaty, Education, Social Development, and Program Management. I graduated in June 2019 with a Bachelor of Arts Major in Indigenous Studies and Minor in History  from Vancouver Island University.  I also have experience working with Professional development and training with the Cowichan VIU Campus, as well as some experience in registration. I am currently on an all native women’s soccer team but covid has slowed this down, and am assistant coach for my nephews U-12 team. I love being with my family, hiking, and learning more of my traditional language hul’q’umi’num.

Cheryl Stone, Indigenous Community Engagement Manager

We're happy to be working with Cheryl Stone in her role as acting Indigenous Community Engagement Manager.

Sheila White, Indigenous Employment Navigator, Nanaimo Campus

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, Indigenous Development Manager

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.

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.

Maureen Thomas, Indigenous Community Engagement Manager (on leave)

Maureen Thomas is Coast Salish; her Coast Salish name is Sa lii pul wut. Maureen is a registered member of the Cowichan Tribes. She spent her early years with her maternal grandmother at Quamichan and attended an all Catholic Indian Day School.

Maureen has worked extensively with several Indigenous communities on Vancouver Island. She has held Senior Management positions, Board of Director positions and as an indigenous advocate, she knows the historical iteration of the Canadian Indian Act have had far reaching implications for all Indigenous Canadians. Her passion is socio-economic transformation within Indigenous communities to move from Indian Act administration to a more robust Indigenous Self-Governing approach.

Maureen is a lifelong learner who believes in living her learning. Her formal education includes:

  • MBA 2008 Royal Roads University
  • Graduate Certificate Human Resources 2004 Royal Roads University
  • BA 2002 Malaspina University College
  • Computer Applications Certificate 2000 Malaspina University College
  • Conflict Resolution Training 1998 Justice Institute of BC

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.