Coast Mountain College’s (CMTN) new Wii Gyemsiga Siwilaawksat Student Building in Terrace has been housing students for a semester now and the dorms feel homier than ever.
For third-year First Nations Fine Arts student of the Lakhtsamisyu clan, Kobe Antoine, the student building is a dream come true.
“Being in a nice student building is important because it improves your quality of life and your overall studies,” says Antoine, who used to live in the former dorms when he attended CMTN in 2017 and 2018.
“I feel like it makes me want to put in more effort into my work because I finally have the right workspace to think clearly. It makes me feel acknowledged as a student and I just really want to keep learning here.”
The Wii Gyemsiga Siwilaawksat Student Building replaced 40-year-old-buildings on campus following an $18.7 million investment from the province, announced September 2019.
Inside it houses a large cultural space, 108 student rooms, two hotel suites, an elder suite, two shared kitchens, two collaboration areas, a computer lab, an Esports room, two shared kitchens and bike storage.
“Living here you feel a lot more accountability to make sure you stay on top of things because you’re all sharing a beautiful space. When you have a sense of community, you want everyone to have a positive experience here,” Antoine says, adding that there is more opportunity to connect with other students because of all the shared rooms.
“It feels like a home away from home and you’re not just restricted to socializing with people in your program. You can just reach out to anybody here because everyone is super friendly.”
Shawna Kiesman, is of Tsimshian/Nisga’a heritage and is also a third-year First Nations Fine Arts student who resided in the former dorms. Kiesman says she was initially hesitant about living on campus again. Both her and Antoine are mature students of the third year advanced diploma program at Freda Diesing School of Northwest Coast Art , which was re-introduced this semester at CMTN.
“The rental market is not so great in Terrace which makes it difficult to find housing, especially as a student and I didn’t want to live in the old dorms again,” says Kiesman.
“When I found out the new student building would be open in time for the start of the school year, it lifted all that stress of worrying that I would have a place to stay.”
Take a step into the Wii Gyemsiga Siwilaawksat Student Building and you’ll be met with beautiful hand-carved totem poles towering over the atrium. The hallways are filled with First Nations art — it’s clear these dorms are like no other.
The artwork draws on the beauty of the rugged landscape of the Northwest and the distinct cultural aspects of the surrounding First Nations territories. The artists are all either instructors, alumni or current students from the Freda Diesing School of Northwest Coast Art.
Both Kiesman and Antoine were asked to contribute their talents to create artwork for the building.
“I feel pretty honoured to be included along all these artists, it’s just so inspiring to wake up and see all these beautiful paintings,” Kiesman says, adding she has lots of pride to see her culture celebrated at CMTN.
“As students, coming from far and wide, we are building that future so it’s important for us to have a comfortable and affordable place to focus on that journey... these dorms have made our entire educational experience more valuable.”