Three faculties collaborate to provide support for Indigenous students in STEM-focused programs

Posted on July 27, 2021


In an effort to equip Indigenous students for success and build community, three faculties at Queen’s are collaborating to provide academic support services along with workshops and events unique to STEM-related programs.

The new initiative—called STEM: Indigenous Academics, or STEM:InA—launches now with the appointment of Karissa Maracle, BEd’17, Mohawk from Tyendinaga, as program coordinator. STEM:InA will operate out of the Four Directions Indigenous Student Centre.

It is essentially an expansion of the Aboriginal Access to Engineering (AAE) initiative, which has successfully grown in the last ten years from four Indigenous students to a community of 55+ students this upcoming year. Melanie Howard, the director of AAE, will manage the staff and budget of STEM:InA.

“We’ve seen quite a bit of success in building and growing the Indigenous student cohort in engineering, through dedicated efforts in academic support and community building,” said Howard. “It occurred to me that science students, in whatever disciplines and faculties they are studying at Queen’s, could benefit from a similar approach.”

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In addition to the dedicated program coordinator, STEM:InA will offer a weeklong direct transitional program, small group tutorials for first-year students, ongoing individualized guidance and tutor coordination for upper year students, and a monthly series of workshops and events around subjects of interest to Indigenous STEM students including topics of intersectionality for Indigenous women in STEM.

“I have attended events through Aboriginal Access to Engineering and seen directly how positive the community is,” said Dr. Kevin Deluzio, dean of the Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science. “Students are very engaged with the program and the supportive environment is critical to the students’ success. It is wonderful that we can use this program as a template to expand the impact across the university. When Melanie came to me with the idea to expand student services to include other science faculties, it was a resounding yes from me!”

“Joining forces with the Faculty of Engineering and the Faculty of Health Sciences is a critical step in providing academic support for our Indigenous students,” said Dr. Barbara Crow, dean of the Faculty of Arts and Science. “With this program, we are continuing to build more supportive communities for Indigenous students.”

“It is wonderful to learn that our degree programs, including the Bachelor of Health Science and undergraduate nursing, have experienced significant increases in enrolment this year,” said Dr. Jane Philpott, dean of the Faculty of Health Sciences. “The next logical step in creating a welcoming environment for Indigenous students at Queen’s is to encourage the development of an active community within the sciences, where students can meet one another and explore their futures together.” Unique to the Faculty of Health Sciences, Indigenous Access and Recruitment Coordinator Cortney Clark, a member of the faculty’s EDI office, will support the program coordinator’s engagement with students.

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This development couldn’t arrive at a better time. The Fall 2021 term will see the largest ever class of incoming Indigenous students to STEM-related degree programs at Queen’s.

Of the 65 self-identified Indigenous applicants who’ve accepted offers of admission to programs of the three faculties, at least 45 will access services of STEM:InA. Those students applied to Queen’s under the Indigenous Admissions Policy, which requires all undergraduate applicants provide documentary evidence of Indigenous ancestry.

“Bottom line, we want to ensure that no Indigenous student feels like they are ‘the only one’,” said Howard. “There is a community of Indigenous scholars in science at Queen’s and across the country.”