Faculty Stories: Meet Dr. Johanna Sam


What Nation are you from?

Hunelhyad? Sid Dr. Johanna Sam sets’edinh. Sid Tŝilhqot’in xaghiyah. Sid Musqueam nen ŝidah as.

My name is Dr. Johanna Sam. I am a proud citizen of Tŝilhqot’in Nation. I currently live and work on the traditional lands of the Musqueam People.


How long have you been a professor with NITEP?

I have been a faculty member starting in January 2021, but I’ve been with NITEP since 2018 as a Field Centre coordinator and instructor.


What is your favourite place on campus?

Oh my goodness, my favourite spot on campus would be Pacific Spirit Park!



What is your favourite snack to get on campus?

I try not to snack!

My favourite snack, I guess, is anything when we’re feasting because we have a lot of good food from Coast Salish Catering, so anything from there.



Can you tell us one thing you love to do when you’re off work?

When I am off work, I love to just disconnect from technology; I like to be outside; I like hiking; and I also like photography.



What would you like NITEP students to know about you?

I’d like NITEP students to know that I am approachable. I am from a small community and I can help them with transitioning from a small community to campus. I have some of those real-life experiences of being a student, myself coming from a small town and going to such a large campus. The campus is probably larger than my hometown!



You are a Professor in Educational and Counselling Psychology. What research areas are you interested in?

My research area that I’m interested in is the social-emotional development of children and adolescents. I particularly look at cyberbullying with young people working with Indigenous communities.

Right now, I’m starting a new project to better understand climate change during the COVID-19 pandemic with two Indigenous communities, the Secwépemc and Tŝilhqot’in, and we’re looking at how they responded to climate change during the pandemic. Outside of that project, a lot of my work is focused on online relationship, in particular cyberbullying. So, what happens when youth may experience negative online incidents and how do they overcome it? My current work is on Online Warriors. They may experience something bad happening to them online, but how do they “warrior up” to overcome it? What are the strengths that they have naturally to help them navigate these difficult online situations?


What do you like best about teaching at NITEP?

What I like about teaching at NITEP is meeting all of the students from all over Turtle Island! I think, it’s so exciting that they teach me as much as I teach them, and I really like that I have the privilege of going out into the community with our field centres. So, I get to go out and actually be on the land outside of Vancouver and be with them, and I think that a unique experience about teaching with the NITEP is that I get to teach both on campus as well as off-campus in the community.


What is the best way to study for your class?

I would say the best way to study for my classes is to show up. If you come to class that is half of the work right there, to actually come to seminars, to be present, to share in sharing circles, just build that community amongst each other as a co-work. So, I would say that the best way to prepare for my classes is really to be prepared to be engaged to talk, as they say, don’t be shy.


When did you know you wanted to be an educator?

I think it’s probably a lifelong goal, and I started a very long time ago, and it just sort of led me in this direction. When I first started undergrad studies, I was actually in criminology and doing a joint major with psychology. After a while, I realized that I didn’t want to go into the justice field, so I dropped criminology and stayed with a major in psychology. And then from there, I moved into population and public health because I wanted to work with communities. Afterwards, I went into educational and developmental psychology field to focus back in on working with youth. I often work with youth who are at risk of dropping out of school or who have already dropped out of school, so helping them re-enter back into school, or to help them along their educational journey. So, really working with some of our youth to help them navigate the systematic racism and barriers that they may face in education.


What is the best thing about being an educator?

The best thing about being an educator is all the people that you get to meet and work with. I think that the most fun part is that you build a community with other educators and support each other.


What strategies did you use to be successful in university?

Drink lots of coffee! [laughs]

I think the strategy to use in college or university is really maintaining balance. Have a balance between your work and personal life. Having a support system in place, having a schedule that fits you, and finding out what works for you. I do a lot of my writing more in the afternoons or evenings because I find it calmer at that time, and I’ll take my meetings in the morning. So, finding a schedule that really works for you and keeping up with the routine, and being ok to say no because as Indigenous educators we get a lot of asks on our time, so having that confidence to say no, like, I can’t take that project on right now. Having boundaries is important as well as I mentioned that balance being able to disconnect and getting offline going out, going back to your communities, going back and being engaged in your communities or seeing your family.


Are there any resources at NITEP that you would recommend that could help the Indigenous student be successful?


I would say that the thing that helps students be successful in the NITEP program is… the family feeling! We come together, we support one another, and it really does become a NITEP family. So, I think that realizing that in coming to us and talking about the challenges they’re facing or even hearing about the successes or fun things that they’re doing, is what I think makes this program so enriching and so much fun!