A new program that aims to get more First Nation, Metis and Inuit (FNMI) students to take up science-based careers is about to begin at the Langley campus of Kwantlen Polytechnic University (KPU).
It is a joint venture of the Verna J. Kirkness education foundation and Kwantlen that supports educational opportunities and activities outside of the classroom through research mentorship.
KPU’s Faculty of Science and Horticulture will host the program at the Langley campus from April 29 through May 3.
“I see this as the start of a great partnership,” said Dr. Elizabeth Worobec, dean of the faculty.
“Expanding the program to KPU will help the foundation to meet the goal of increasing the number of First Nation, Metis and Inuit students graduating in science, medicine, and engineering by offering a unique enrichment experience for FNMI students in the Lower Mainland,” said Tony Williams, chair of the foundation’s board of directors.
It achieves these goals by bringing Grade 11 FNMI students to a university campus for one week where they meet with elders at Aboriginal student centres and do independent research with faculty mentors and their research groups.
Among the activities planned for the students are:
- university level experience in computer-aided design and drafting
- participation in insect collection and curation activities
- laboratory research on insects that prey on greenhouse and agricultural crops
- assisting with re-indigenizing the Logan Creek floodplain with native plants
- learning skills to be successful in turf management
“This will be a wonderful opportunity for indigenous youth,” said Dr. Steve Cardwell, KPU’s associate vice president, academic.
“We look forward to building the program with the foundation.”
Foundation namesake, Dr. Verna J. Kirkness, a member of the Fisher River Cree Nation, has been a leader in the field of Indigenous education since the 1950s.
In 2008, the Verna J. Kirkness Education Foundation was established to increase the number of First Nations, Metis and Inuit (FNMI) students graduating in science and engineering and to develop young role models who will influence other students to complete Grade 12 and pursue post-secondary studies.
Starting at the University of Manitoba, the program expanded to include six universities in 2018.
In 2019, in addition to KPU, new programs will be added at the University of Alberta, and the University of Victoria.
“I was very impressed by the Langley campus. It is so warm and inviting, as are all the people we met,”Dr. Kirkness said.
A total of 150 students will be accepted into the program in 2019 at nine universities across Canada.
To date, 512 Indigenous students have completed the program and are recognized as Kirkness scholars.