Photo above: INCA Summer Institute 2018 students scrum Jane Philopott, then Minister of Indigenous Services Canada. The INCA Summer Institute has helped launch the careers of journalists like Connie Walker (CBC Missing and Murdered), Nelson Bird (Assignment Editor, CTV), Kerry Benjoe (Post Media), Mervin Brass (Managing Editor, CBC North), Priscilla Wolf (APTN) and Ntawnis Piapot (CBC/Vice). 

INCA Summer Institute goes remote due to CoViD-19 

The INCA Summer Institute has helped launch the careers of journalists like Connie Walker (CBC Missing and Murdered), Nelson Bird (Assignment Editor, CTV), Kerry Benjoe (Post Media), Mervin Brass (Managing Editor, CBC North), Priscilla Wolf (APTN) and Ntawnis Piapot (CBC/Vice). 

This May-June the INCA Summer Institute will be offered remotely for the first time in its 25-year history. Graduates of the program are coming back to teach students everything they need to know to embark on careers in journalism and storytelling.

“We seriously considered cancelling or at least postponing the Summer Institute,” says program coordinator Shannon Avison. “What makes the Institute awesome is that students are thrown into a newsroom, and they’re taught in-person by professional journalists. How could we reproduce that experience online?”

But there was also opportunity. “This summer, our students don’t have to come to Regina; they can literally be anywhere with an Internet connection and a decent computer.” 

Students will use a video conference platform that can accommodate up to 50 people. They’ll be “in class” from 10 to 4, Monday to Friday from May 4 to June 19.

“It sounds daunting,” says Avison. “But students will be learning about journalism about half the time and doing journalism the rest of the time. Assignments include articles for print and online new sites, infographics, radio and television stories and lots of social media. 

Kerry Benjoe and Betty Ann Adam taught print journalism in the Summer Institute for the first time in 2006.

The other advantage of an online Summer Institute is that the instructors can be located anywhere–Yellowknife, Saskatoon, Winnipeg, Toronto, Edmonton and Regina.

Betty Ann Adam will teach from Saskatoon. She worked for the Star Phoenix for 30 year and has been teaching in the Summer Institute since it was first offered over 25 years ago. She’ll be teaching with Kerry Benjoe, who took the INCA Summer Institute in 2002 and went on to work for the Leader-Post for 13 years.  

“In 2006, I had the chance to work alongside Betty Ann at the INCA Summer Institute and was a bit star struck because she already had nearly 20 years of experience working as a print journalist,” says Benjoe. 

“I felt a sense of camaraderie with her because I knew I had someone like her out there doing exactly what I was doing; and if she was able to do it, I knew I could too. It’s not an easy profession, but it is a rewarding one.”

Nelson Bird took the INCA Summer Institute in 1994.  “The Summer Institute opened my eyes on the various aspects of journalism and helped me to determine that I wanted to become a full-time journalist,” he says.  “I wasn’t sure what area to pursue but I was happy to learn about radio, TV and print journalism.”

Nelson Bird, CTV assignment editor, took the Institute in 1994, launching a decades-long career that is still going strong.

Bird decided to pursue television journalism.  He went on to complete a Bachelor of Journalism at the UR, and in 1998, he got his first job as a reporter for CTV and host of Indigenous Circle.

Eventually he was promoted to the important role of Assignment Editor at CTV Regina.

“I make sure that we personalize every story by insisting reporters include ‘real people,’ including First Nations and Metis people, in their stories.”

In the midst of the CoViD-19 pandemic, Bird is keen to talk to INCA students about the important role of journalists, especially in this age of fake news. “There is a lot of false information that is spreading as fast as the virus itself…everyone needs to get their information from credible sources,” he says. 

Mervin Brass took the Summer Institute in 1993, and is now Managing Editor of CBC North. He will teach sessions from Yellowknife.  

“I had real eye-opening experience during the INCA Summer Institute,” he says. “I found my calling. I found something I was good at and passionate about.”

Brass says, “The best thing about working in the journalism field is it never ever felt like work.”

“Even before the pandemic, the media was going through a major adjustment,” says Avison. “Today, more people—especially young people—are getting news and information through Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube.  

Students will learn how journalists use social media responsibly and this summer, the  curriculum expanded to include Virtual Reality/360 journalism, which will be taught by a professor at Ryerson University in Toronto.

For more information, go to the Facebook page @INCA.FNUNIV. You can read the stories by students at our news website For information, contact Shannon Avison at 306-536-8069 or For help with admission/registration contact or call 306-790-5950 x 3134.

Nelson Bird and John Lagimodiere were teaching in INCA in 1999, with student Sandra Ahenakew (seated) and instructor Shannon Avison

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