Haida Gwaii Semesters and Summer Sessions F.A.Q.
The Haida Gwaii Institute (HGI) is a community-based education and research post-secondary institution that develops and delivers transformative education inspired by Haida Gwaii. We offer students immersive, experiential learning opportunities in rural, resource-dependent communities in transition. We embrace a place-based approach; we see the social and ecological systems of Haida Gwaii as vibrant natural classrooms for our students to engage with, grounding high level course content in living, local case studies.
The Haida Gwaii Higher Education Society (HGHES) is a non-profit organization that developed the Haida Gwaii Semesters and other programs, that are offered now by HGI. HGHES is made up of a diverse board of directors ranging from forestry professionals, doctors, hereditary chiefs, and other local communtiy members that are commited to transformative education inspired by Haida Gwaii and the idea of learning together.
The Haida Gwaii Insitute is governed jointly by the University of British Columbia’s Faculty of Foresty and the Haida Gwaii Higher Education Society. As HGI is located organizationally in UBC Forestry, all HGI undergraduate programming is accredited through UBC.
No, this is not a Haida led organization, this is a community-based and inter-cultural organization. Our staff and board are made up of both Haida and non-Haida people. We work together, have shared core values and visions, and attempt to integrate different knowledge systems into our programs.
When our organization took form a decade ago, we visited the Elders at HlG̱aagilda X̱aayda Kil Naay Skidegate Haida Immersion Program to find a term in the Haida language that was fitting for the work that we set out to do in education. Their response was Sḵ'aadG̱a Gud ad is which translates to learning together.
Sḵ'aadG̱a Gud ad is embodies our vision for a cross-cultural and community-based approach to higher education. We aim to provide both western and Indigenous lenses – and the diversity of persepctives that exist within those lenses - on issues explored in class, and to learn from leading academics as well as people with direct, lived experience who are experts in their own right. Facilitating this rich collaboration supports a meaningful learning exchange and the opportunity for students to develop a deep and broad perspective.
We have many Haida curriculum developers and reviewers, instructors, and guest speakers that help ensure that Haida values and perspectives are represented and respected in our courses, which has a very a direct impact on what students will learn. We also include readings, media, and other resources that have been authored or developed by Haida and other Indigenous people in all of our courses.
We seek wise council and direction from Haida leadership including friends, colleagues and members of our HGI Advisory Council, but also more formalized entities like the Hereditary Chiefs Council, Skidegate Band Council and Old Massett Village Council Band. We have a signed memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the Council of the Haida Nation to help clarify and work toward our shared goals for capacity building and education on Haida Gwaii. We also have an Indigenous and Community Initiatives Manager on our small team, to help plan our programming and development in ways that make sense for our communities.
No, definitely not, but over the whole program you will spend ample time outside. Some courses are more field based (HGSE 356, HGSE 353, HGSE 320C) while others have more indoor, classroom time. This depends on the nature of the course itself and also the time of year.
The program fee (which is separate from tuition) helps to cover some of the costs associated with the uniqueness of our program including stipends for the many guest speakers; field trips; PPE, safety equipment and field gear; transportation to and from class each day; access to required reading materials and other resources; and more. As much as possible this money is spent locally on Haida Gwaii and plays an important role in our small and transitioning economy, particularly in the fall and winter months when tourism is low. This fee enables us to provide a unique and diverse learning experience for students, distinct from traditional, on-campus programs.
Class is typically held from 9am until 3:30pm, with an hour break for lunch. Some days may run longer or shorter, depending on the flow of the week and whether there is a field trip that may require some commuting. These programs are intensive and they are a different pace than your average university term. Time management is key to your success. With the exception of our summer sessions, we schedule every Friday afternoon off for independent study, so that students can use the time to catch up on work or take some time for self-care.
All students, even those considered ‘visiting’ at UBC, have the opportunity to disclose to UBC’s Centre for Accessibility so that we might assist you with appropriate support and services. Disclosure does not impact your admission. If your home university is aware of your learning difference and/or other academic concessions, UBC will not automatically be informed. In order to receive support, you will need to contact the Centre for Accessibility.
Yes, while we are off-campus we still belong to the UBC community and we lean on many of the established policies, especially in regards to student conduct and safety. We also develop policy, procedures, and practices specific to HGI.
HGI helps connect students with available local housing. We do a call-out and have prospective landlords fill out housing forms, which we share with students so that they can reach out and speak with community members directly regarding their rental spaces. Options tend to range from rooms in family homes, shared houses with other students, private apartments or cabins, etc. Rent can vary significantly depending on the unit, though $400-$750+ is a fair monthly estimate for rent.
Most housing options are furnished with the essentials, include internet, and are within walking distance to the town centre of whichever community your program is situated in. We advise that tenants and landlords review and sign a working rental agreement to help clarify expectations. Our staff will help you find a comfortable scenario that meets your needs.
Many of our goods are barged here and we pay higher prices to account for the freight. As a result, sometimes our gas and groceries are more expensive than in bigger cities (though not as staggering as the high cost of living in the Arctic or other, more northern areas). Depending on how and what you eat, your grocery bill can vary. Past students have found it helpful to bring a few things from home to get their kitchen pantries started (spices, condiments, dry goods, etc.) though you will be able to find everything that you need locally.
Yes! If you are interested in getting a first-hand perspective of what it’s like to participate in a program or live in a particular rental unit, let us know. We can put you in touch with an alumni in your area.
Yes! If you have the means to bring your personal vehicle, there is no doubt that you will put it to good use exploring the Islands on your evenings and weekends. We do not have any public transportation on Haida Gwaii and it can be difficult to get around, especially between the north and south ends of the Islands. HGI provides program related transportation, but previous students have greatly enjoyed the use of their own vehicles during down time.
We actively recruit Indigenous students specifically, as part of our recruitment strategy. We also make an effort to create spaces that are safe, supportive and inclusive of Indigenous perspectives. Many of our instructors and local guest speakers are Indigenous. Local Haida scholars, knowledge keepers and community members work with us in the development of program curriculum. Generally, we have had one or two Indigenous students per semester in a class of 20 or so students. This percentage is comparable to most on-campus university classes. If you are an Indigenous student and would like to learn more about the experience of our past Indigenous students, please reach out to us and we can help put you in touch. Our Indigenous and Community Initiatives Manager is another great person to connect with for more insight.
As part of your application process, you are required to meet with your academic advisor and obtain a letter of permission. The letter of permission helps sort out how the credits you’ll earn in our courses will be transferred back to your home university and respective program. Once you complete our program you will be issued an official transcript from UBC and can request that a copy be sent to your home university to initiate the credit transfers, as agreed upon in your letter of permission.
Sometimes academic advisors have questions about our courses as they work on your letter of permission, please feel free to connect them to our office and we can help provide more information, including syllabi.
Do not panic, if you have missed a deadline (as many of our students do) we have ways to work around these. Please reach out to our team and we can advise you on how to proceed.
Beyond our expectations of your commitment to the learning experience, our main expectation is that students exercise respect. This should be demonstrated as respect for themselves, for one another, for the land and waters, and especially, for the Island communities that are hosting, in particular the Haida Nation upon whose territory we are situated.
As part of our admissions process we have students sign a participation agreement that outlines some very clear conduct expectations and should a student breach this agreement during the program, they may be asked to leave.
While our team will help provide a baseline of information, we highly recommend that you spend time researching the community so that you can prepare for your time here and frame realistic expectations. Though we often refer to ourselves as one collective Haida Gwaii community, there are several indivdual communities that are quite distinct. Please do your research and be in touch if you have questions.
We asked alumni of our programs what they would relay to incoming students, and this is what they shared with us!
“I wish I had spent more time talking face to face with people on-island about different projects. There are so many talented people on Haida Gwaii and there is potential for people to collaborate and create opportunities for themselves. I also wish I had known I did not need to bring a suitcase full of piano books. It definitely is not necessary to pack a lot of things, just essential things like gumboots." Kim, Alumni 2013
"You really need to be dedicated and willing to 100% commit yourself to this experience. You have to be willing to change the way you think about things, take a seat in the listening chair, and learn to truly value others' stories and ideas. Top quality for a potential student is respect, patience, creativity, and thoughtfulness. Also a sense of humour." Rhiannon Moore, Alumni 2012
"It's important to trust in the experience and know that all things come in good time." Emily Collins, Alumni 2010
"The remoteness of Haida Gwaii was still surprising to me even though I knew where I was going. My biggest regret from my semester is not coming out of my shell sooner. Haida Gwaii is a small community but one thriving with activity. It is important to push yourself out of your comfort zone and to mingle with locals. That is how you find out about all the amazing stuff going on in the community. Engaging with everyone within and outside the program is the best way to maximize this incredible experience." Emily Salt, Alumni 2014