Though new resources and initiatives at Queen’s have led to a 93 per cent increase of Aboriginal students over the last three years, members of the Aboriginal community say the University could still be doing more.
According to the 2014-15 enrolment report released in December, applications from Aboriginal students have increased 30 per cent since 2011, and this year’s incoming undergraduate class had 52 self-identified Aboriginal students.
Since 2011, Queen’s has initiated a number of mentoring and leadership programs that target elementary and secondary school students.
The new programs implemented in 2014 include Aboriginal Access to Engineering, Katarokwi Aboriginal School Mentoring Program, Engineering Week for Aboriginal Youth and Medical Week for Aboriginal Youth.
Other outreach initiatives include the Aboriginal Postsecondary Information Program, career and education fairs and various on-campus events.
One initiative implemented this year was a webinar, titled “Applying to Queen’s University, Aboriginal Applicants”, for Aboriginal applicants living in remote communities. According to the document on these outreach initiatives, this webinar had 27 registrants as of Jan. 9.
Ann Tierney, vice-provost and dean of student affairs, wasn’t available for comment before press time.
Ashley Maracle, the Aboriginal community liaison in charge of outreach, recruitment and admission at Four Directions Aboriginal Student Centre (FDASC), said in the last four years there has been more support for the centre and for Aboriginal students and applicants at Queen’s.
“I think that we have more support at the centre now so I think that they have really improved. There’s a lot more communication with self-identified students and we also work really closely with the registrar’s office,” she said.
“So that’s beneficial for the applicants because we’re making sure to have open communication and it benefits the students.”
Maracle said lack of resources and visibility are some barriers that Aboriginal students may face at Queen’s.
“I think that [Queen’s has] been doing quite a bit, especially the past four years,” she said. “In terms of what more we could be doing, I think that that’s something that every institution runs into. Having limited resources is kind of the only thing.”
She added that Queen’s could increase Indigenous faculty, giving students representation “across a number of avenues” and not only through FDASC.
Darian Doblej, ArtSci ’18, visited Queen’s the summer after grade nine through a program conducted by the Enrichment Studies Unit. After the program, he said he knew he’d apply to Queen’s.
Doblej said he thinks the University’s currently doing a great job, but there’s room for improvement.
“Aboriginal students who are looking at applying to universities, they’re really concerned about the ‘whiteness’ of the school and feel as if they might not assimilate well into the school or they might not feel accepted,” he said.
“That on its own I think needs to be addressed before they [Queen’s] expect more Aboriginal students to come.”
Doblej added that while Maracle does a great job as community liaison at FDASC, the University could use two recruiters instead of one. He also encouraged Aboriginal students to go to FDASC.
“To any other Aboriginal student coming in, I urge them to reach out to Four Directions and use what they have — they have great resources there,” he said.
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