Chancellor launches new bursary for Indigenous students

$15,000 to be offered based on financial need

Chancellor Jim Leech
Chancellor Jim Leech

In an effort to offer financial and educational support to Indigenous students, Chancellor Jim Leech has set up a $15,000 need-based bursary for Indigenous students. 

Each year, Leech will offer $15,000 of his own money to help facilitate the university careers of eligible students in any way possible. As such, recipients aren’t required to use the money for any particular academic need and are rather given the freedom to spend it as they see fit.

“The total amount for the academic year is $15,000 and it is offered on a case-by-case basis,” Leech told The Journal. “I’ve had a very privileged business [….] it’s now time to give back.”

According to Leech, the bursary is meant to ensure students don’t leave Queen’s due to financial restraints.

“Many students find it hard to budget properly for the school year already and Indigenous students often face more financial barriers than most,” Leech said. “I want to make sure these students have as few barriers as possible in pursuing their education.”  

The idea for the bursary came about when Leech attended a meeting of Canadian university Chancellors that was hosted by then-Governor General David Johnson. Leech said the meeting was a call to action for universities across the country to meet the recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. 

Leech said the meeting prompted him to look more closely at the needs of Indigenous students on campus. He didn’t realize until speaking with Indigenous leaders on campus, like Janice Hill and others in the community, that there could be tremendous benefits to a bursary like this. 

“Over the past year or so, I’ve become more sensitized to the unique needs of Indigenous students,” Leech said. He learned that many Indigenous students pay expensive transportation costs to get home and many also send money back to the reserve to help their family make ends meet. 

Darian Doblej, ArtSci ’18, said it takes him around 24 hours to get home from Queen’s. 

“Some of us are from small communities where not many other people go to university, so there’s a lot of pressure to do well and be the shining star,” he said. 

Tara Wilson, Nursing ’19, said has experienced similar financial strains to Doblej. “I became a don partly because it was free food and living,” she said. 

Wilson said the bursary would be beneficial for Indigenous students because it allows them the same freedoms as other students so they can focus on their education. She said when she applied to university, it was somewhat based on how many bursaries the schools offered for Indigenous students. 

“There was [no bursary], until now, for Indigenous students who are no longer in first year,” she said. “It is a great first step in making it easier for Indigenous people to consider university a reality.”

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