The University of Winnipeg



Alumnus returns to UWinnipeg in pursuit of knowledge

Alumni Spotlight

Dan Szymanski sitting at desk in classroom

Dan Szymanski

Dan Szymanski (BA 13, BEd 19) has dedicated his life to the pursuit of knowledge.

Dan is a born and bred Winnipegger and University of Winnipeg alumnus. He obtained his first undergraduate degree, a Bachelor of Arts, with a major in history; and that experience set the foundation for becoming a student of the world.

“The courses that I completed during my first undergraduate program sparked my curiosity about how people lived, learned, and interacted beyond the borders that I was most familiar with,” said Dan.  

As a result, Dan found himself teaching in Southeast Asia for five years after graduation. Dan’s travels took him to over 45 countries, where he developed a global perspective and appreciation for travel, culture, and seeking out new and exciting experiences.

However, as home often does, Dan was called back to Winnipeg and his alma mater, The University of Winnipeg. “I eventually made the choice to return to Winnipeg to pursue my Bachelor of Education through the University’s after-degree program,” said Dan.

It was during his time in the after-degree program that Dan really began to reflect on what kind of educator he wanted to be. “I wanted to develop my own teaching philosophy and gain a better understanding of the roles that teachers and schools play within their respective communities.”

Today, Dan is a Grade 1-2 teacher in the River East Transcona School Division.

Dan is also a trained musician and has been active in the Manitoba arts scene for over 20 years. His involvement includes performances in numerous choral and jazz groups as well as musicals and operatic theatre. While Dan does not teach music, he always finds ways to incorporate music into his teaching. “I find music lends itself well to almost any subject, whether it be literacy, numeracy, art, science, social studies, etc. Music is a foundational component of culture and good for the working memories of students.”

A return to the classroom

This fall Dan will return yet again, to pursue his Post-Baccalaureate Diploma of Education (PBDE). 

While Dan pursues his PBDE, he will focus his studies on Indigenous Knowledge. “One of the most impactful courses that I completed during my education studies was centered on Indigenous Education,” said Dan. “This was, in many ways, my first exposure to the true history of this land and the experience cultivated my commitment toward truth and reconciliation. It was a time of many firsts for me, including receiving teachings from an Elder as well as observing and engaging in sacred Indigenous ceremonies and practices.

“I’ve come to recognize the importance of amplifying the voices and lived experiences of this land’s Indigenous Peoples. There is much work to be done on the part of non-Indigenous folks as we work toward supporting the teachings and initiatives around Truth and Reconciliation.”

Dan is doing the work. For the past two years, Dan has taken an instrumental role as Indigenous Academic Achievement representative for his school supporting the staff and students to learn and facilitate Indigenous teachings and customs. “Indigenous Peoples have understood for millennia that everything is connected,” said Dan. “The practice of smudging epitomizes this innate connection.”

With Dan’s support, a group of students worked with a cultural advisor to learn about the significance of smudging, what traditional medicines are used and how to perform the ceremony with honour. The Smudge Leadership Group now consists of 18 students who rotationally lead ceremonies once a school cycle for any student who wishes to participate. “Many students look forward to our ceremonies,” said Dan. “We typically get about 30 participants along with myself and my principal who attend every ceremony.”

Dan will continue to be a seeker of knowledge when he returns to study the Indigenous Knowledge stream at UWinnipeg. “It is my hope that I may better equip myself to support my school team’s efforts in uprooting the prevalence of existing colonial knowledge systems by intentionally and meaningfully adopting Indigenous ways of knowing,” said Dan.

“I truly feel like myself when I am actively learning,” said Dan. “I can’t think of a place I would rather attend than UWinnipeg in my pursuit of knowledge. It has been five years since I graduated, so it’s time to get back to work.” 

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