Sonja Perley Returns to Alma Mater as STU’s Nikanahtpat/Director of Indigenous Initiatives

Headshot of Sonja Perley in her office

Sonja Perley, BA '96, BSW '98 is focused on the growth and success of Indigenous students as she settles into her new role as STU's first Nikanahtpat/Director of Indigenous Initiatives.


“Our goal is to create a warm and welcoming space for Indigenous students, envisioning it as a home away from home, and building on existing supports,” said Perley. 


This position was created to align with St. Thomas University's commitment to offering  Indigenous students a rich academic and cultural experience in a supportive environment. 


“The existing sense of community among the students is strong, and we aim to build upon that foundation. Students appreciate being at STU and enjoy the overall atmosphere. However, we acknowledge the continuous effort required to enhance the university's cultural safety, especially for individuals from diverse backgrounds,” she said. 


With the ongoing renovations at the Wabanaki Centre, Perley said improvements are necessary to ensure Indigenous students have a dedicated space reflective of their culture and their current needs. 


"We want to incorporate traditional knowledge and teachings by connecting students with knowledge keepers and other elders,” she said. “These efforts include organizing workshops, improving the Centre, and other initiatives to ensure a culturally safe and enriching environment for Indigenous students.” 

In her new role, Perley oversees Indigenous student support services, including the Wabanaki Centre, Indigenous Experiential Learning, and campus programming. Responsibilities include contributing to the Senate Committee on Reconciliation, supporting the Student Reconciliation Committee, Elder-in-Residence, and Indigenous Experiential Learning Coordinator. 


“Working with the current staff has been excellent. Their presence brings a strong level of trust, and there have been a lot of positive student experiences we want to continue to build on. Our goal is to support them in any way possible,” she said.