Student Stories: Meet Amber Shilling

Amber Shilling B.A, M.Ed.

5th Year PhD Candidate, Department of Educational Studies
Nation: Mnjikaning First Nation (Anishinaabe)
Home: Calgary, AB (Currently residing in Vancouver, BC)

Amber Shilling (Out of the Clouds) is Anishinaabe from Mnjikaning First Nation and is a member of the Crane Clan. She is a 5th year Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Education Studies at UBC. Amber’s current research explores how urban Indigenous youth utilize technology as a means to connect to identity, culture, and language.

She became interested in her current research through her own personal experience of trying to learn Anishinaabemowin. Amber grew up in Blackfoot territory (Calgary, AB). Here, she turned to technology to connect to the language of the Anishinaabe nation. In her exploration of language learning apps, she realized there was a lot left to be desired and considered how such learning could be improved for people who, like her, live away from their home communities and have limited access to fluent language speakers. She also began to consider how she could contribute to the improvement of technology focused on language and cultural revitalization efforts for urban Indigenous youth, and the strengthening of Indigenous communities. During her M.Ed. she was encouraged to apply for her Ph.D., and began her studies at UBC in 2014.

As an Indigenous student in the Faculty of Education, Amber is grateful for the supports she has received at UBC. The SAGE (Supporting Aboriginal Graduate Enhancement) program has been influential in supporting her studies and providing opportunities to take care of her holistic health and wellbeing. She highlights the diversity of Indigenous scholars present within the Faculty of Education as particularly inspiring for her development as an emerging Indigenous scholar, acknowledging that she has been especially fortunate to have a supervisor and committee members who share her culture. Amber also notes that the physical representations of Indigenous culture throughout UBC’s campus allow her to feel represented and continually inspired to take part in meaningful work for Indigenous peoples and students on campus.

Amber has shown herself to be a leader on campus through her extensive involvement with the GSS (Graduate Student Society), UBC Senate, and SAGE. While on the GSS council, she served as the Department of Educational Studies council member, Human Resources Chair, Presidential Hiring Committee graduate student representative, and was the first Indigenous Affairs Commissioner. Amber has been a UBC Senate member since the Fall of 2017, and part of three committees: the Appeals on Academic Standing, Curriculum Committee, and Arts Curriculum Sub-Committee,. This past academic year, Amber was also the SAGE Provincial Coordinator which involved supporting Indigenous graduate students through holistic wellbeing initiatives and academic development opportunities including hosting the 16th Annual Indigenous Graduate Student Symposium, writing workshops, and connecting students with faculty mentors and visiting Indigenous scholars.

As she works to complete her Ph.D., Amber hopes to continue her academic and leadership development in ways that will help support the future generations of Indigenous learners.