Queen’s Engineering graduates largest Indigenous class to date

Posted on July 29, 2020

Queen's indigenous graduates
Patrick Rankin, Metis, Sci ’20 and Kaitlyn Brant, Mohawk, Sci ’16 M.Eng ’19 joined celebrations at the FEAS 125th Anniversary Awards dinner to give a student perspective on Aboriginal Access to Engineering.

2020 marks the largest class yet of Indigenous graduates for the Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science. The class of 13 students speaks to the efforts of the Aboriginal Access to Engineering (AAE) team to support Indigenous student success.

“It’s really exciting to see how the numbers have grown over the past five years,” says Melanie Howard, the Director of Aboriginal Access to Engineering. “Engineering is a challenging degree, and I’m so proud of these students and what they’ve accomplished during their time at Queen’s.”

Aboriginal Access to Engineering provides culturally relevant student support services to Indigenous students enrolled in the Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science. Working in partnership with other campus services such as the Four Directions Indigenous Student centre, the AAE team supports the academic, physical, spiritual and emotional needs of students.

Delaney Benoit, who was President of the Engineering Society in 2019/20, says that the Queen’s approach was key to her choosing the school. "Aboriginal Access to Engineering and Melanie Howard are the reason I came to Queen's,” she says. “I wasn't even going to apply to Queen's until I spoke to the Four Directions staff at the Ontario University Fair. They told me about all the resources and support available to Indigenous students in Engineering."

Along with embedded support, AAE also engages in a number of outreach initiatives, including partnering with schools in First Nations for the past five years to embed science and math curriculum enrichment directly into schools. The partnership includes ongoing in-classroom support, as well as teacher training. “We currently have students in first and second year engineering who first engaged with us when they were in grade seven,” says Howard, who was recently recognized for her leadership by Actua, Canada’s largest outreach organization for Science, Technology, Engineering and Math.

Indigenous graduates, family members and senior leaders from Queen’s typically take part in an honour feast before the convocation ceremony, however this year’s event will be delayed until campus can be safely re-opened.

“Canada needs more Indigenous engineers,” says Howard, “and we’re committed to making that happen, by supporting our Indigenous students through every part of their university experience.”

Queen's indigenous graduates
Aboriginal Access to Engineering supports student professional development, such as this trip to the Canadian Indigenous Science and Engineering National Gathering at McGill University in 2019. Pictured are several of the 2020 graduates.