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Students accessing Indigenous self-identification mechanism

More than 100 students with Indigenous ancestry have chosen to self-identify to the university within the first few months of the launch of a new mechanism in the SOLUS student information system.

"Four Directions Aboriginal Students Centre Welcome Back Barbecue"
The annual Welcome Back Barbecue held in September at the Four Directions Aboriginal Student Centre was attended by students, faculty, staff and community members. (Photo by Candice Pinto)

Self-identifying provides students with the opportunity to become part of the Aboriginal community at Queen’s, practice and/or learn more about their culture, and access resources like tutoring services, scholarships, cultural workshops, and on-campus Elders.

Some students choose to self-identify to the university during the application process, but until now, that has been the only time they can formally do so. This voluntary and confidential mechanism, comprising five questions, also gives Indigenous students the opportunity to consent to being contacted by an Indigenous student services staff member. To date, almost 60 students have requested outreach.

Vanessa McCourt, Aboriginal Advisor at Four Directions, says she is connecting with students from several faculties and schools.

“We’re seeing a lot more graduate and professional students self-identifying who we otherwise may not have known about,” says Ms. McCourt. “Many students, especially graduate students, may have had to leave an Indigenous community at their previous school, and come to Queen’s without a connection or way to form those communities here. By self-identifying, and receiving resources like the Four Directions E-Newsletter, students are able to foster those new relationships here at Queen’s. I am also in touch with some distance students who are accessing services and supports.”

The mechanism is being promoted across campus through posters, the distribution of bookmarks and brochures, on social media and an on-line hub of information. A new video and poster series also launched this month. In the video, Indigenous students and recent grads talk about why they choose to self-identify.

“I’ve never not self-identified. It has made me more comfortable with myself,” says Taylor Bluhm (NSc’18). “It’s nice to talk to people who are going through the same things as you are. If I ever have a question about absolutely anything, Four Directions is always there to help answer my questions.”  

“I wouldn’t have gotten involved with so many things if I didn’t self-identify,” adds Thomas Dymond (Meds’20). “Students unions, different projects, and ultimately jobs, that all came from getting involved, getting to know people, and being a part of a community.”

The mechanism was developed with funding from the Ontario Ministry of Advanced Education and Skill Development’s Targeted Initiatives Fund. This month, Ms. McCourt and Paul Pearsall, Associate University Registrar (Student Information Systems), are presenting at a national post-secondary systems conference about the mechanism, its development, and the results to date.

The text used for the mechanism was developed by a student-led project team, and included a campus-wide consultation with students, faculty members, staff and other institutions to come up with a set of optional questions that aims to encourage self-identification. The application was designed and implemented by the Enterprise Solutions Peoplesoft team in the Office of the University Registrar. 

To learn more about Indigenous self-identification at Queen’s, visit queensu.ca/fdasc/self-identify