STEM:InA provides Indigenous student services to all undergraduate STEM-focused programs at Queen’s

Posted on January 21, 2022


 

 

Indigenous students new to Queen's must arrive confident they will be supported both academically and culturally. A student support program exclusively for Indigenous students, which originated from the Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science and now encompasses three faculties, is doing just that.

STEM: Indigenous Academics (STEM:InA) is an academic support and community-building program for Indigenous students enrolled in any Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) undergraduate degree program at Queen’s.

Indigenous Futures in Engineering (InEng; formerly known as Aboriginal Access to Engineering) has a longstanding reputation for supporting Indigenous students on their journey to becoming engineers. It now shares that expertise with Indigenous students in the Faculties of Arts and Science, and Health Sciences.

Building on 10 years of experience providing student services exclusively in the Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science, the InEng-run STEM:InA program gives students access to a wide range of opportunities, including specialized student and family orientation, tutoring, networking events, and social activities.

“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 Melanie Howard, the director of Indigenous Futures in Engineering. “It occurred to me that science students, in whatever disciplines and faculties they are studying at Queen’s, could benefit from a similar approach.”

“I have seen directly how positive the community is,” says 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 its impact across the university.”

The STEM:InA initiative is supported in the Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science thanks to a 2021 gift of $1 million from Norman Loveland, Sc’65, and his wife, Gay.

“We designed the program to provide academic support, but also to create a community,” says Karissa Maracle, the program coordinator for STEM:InA. “Some students come from First Nation reserves, but others have not, and may want to learn more about their identities. We bring them together to share their experiences.”

Maracle says support begins with an orientation for parents of incoming students which takes place in the days before classes begin. “Our three science deans have a Q&A with parents, along with additional sessions on topics such as mental health and the challenges of first year transition,” she says. “We lay out the support services available at Queen’s, and it really helps to ease any anxiety they might have.” Students themselves then remain on campus for a ‘transition week’ prior to regular move-in, to participate in several academic and social activities.

Once classes begin, STEM:InA students from all undergraduate years have access to supports including paid tutoring and academic workshops on various topics such as how to write a lab report. Regular social events help students connect with each other, and Maracle also checks in individually with students to see if they need any help.

“I remember the challenge of moving from my community to university, and so I know how hard the transition can be,” says Maracle. “It’s very rewarding to be part of this program to help students navigate through university and realize their dreams.”

 

 

This article is one of five in a series regarding the newly renamed Indigenous Futures in Engineering. To learn more about this initiative, please visit: Aboriginal Access to Engineering is now "Indigenous Futures in Engineering"