Outreach and Engagement with First Nations Communities

by Jan Kalinowski

Accounting Professor, Dr. Nola Buhr, was presented with the University of Saskatchewan’s 2011 Award for Distinction in Outreach and Engagement. In 2003, Buhr took on a volunteer position with the Public Sector Accounting Board and connected with then-Auditor General Sheila Fraser on concerns about First Nations and accountability.

“The next thing I knew, I was asked to be the researcher for the CICA Study Group doing a study on financial reporting by First Nations,” she remembers. When Financial Reporting by First Nations was published in 2008, it laid the groundwork for giving guidance on appropriate reporting standards.

During her work with the Study Group, Buhr met then-President & Chief Operating Officer of the Aboriginal Financial Officers Association (AFOA), Ernie Daniels. “I got to know and admire the organization a great deal,” she says. “The AFOA provides training to financial managers of First Nations communities and has a professional designation known as the Certified Aboriginal Financial Manager (CAFM).”

This led to another of Buhr’s recent major achievements – facilitating the signing of an Articulation Agreement between AFOA and the Edwards School of Business. “It’s important both for the school and the AFOA,” she explains. “From the school’s point of view, it demonstrates that we are actively seeking to recruit and retain Aboriginal students. From AFOA’s perspective, it’s saying ‘the CAFM is a quality program. It’s recognized by a well-known university and a well-known business school and we have a partnership to further develop the education of Aboriginal financial managers.’”

According to the agreement, students who complete the AFOA certification will be admitted to the Edwards B.Comm. program with advanced standing. “It gives substantial advancement toward a degree,” says Buhr.

She is pleased with having won the award but says her work is more about giving back. “I’m flattered,” she says. “It’s wonderful, but it’s not about getting the award. It’s about doing what’s important and giving back to the community. And when I say community, I’m talking about Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, First Nations communities, the federal government and the professional accounting community. There’s a whole variety of communities.”