New Aboriginal Access to Engineering director emphasizes outreach
The new director of the Aboriginal Access to Engineering Program believes reaching out to elementary and middle school students is vital for attracting more Aboriginal students to the Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science.
“When Aboriginal youth dream about what they want to be when they grow up, they often don’t consider engineering because of a lack of role models,” says Melanie Howard, Artsci’95, Ed’98. “That’s why it is so important to go into elementary and middle schools to promote math and science learning and present engineering as a career option.”
The Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science reaches out to Aboriginal students and their teachers through a combination of school visits, career conference participation, on-campus programs and the Native Access to Engineering educational website. Ms Howard is looking to improve and increase awareness of the culturally relevant educational materials on the website.
In addition to outreach activities, the new director is committed to furthering support for Aboriginal students already enrolled in the faculty.
One idea is to create new internship opportunities for Aboriginal students with industry. The faculty recently signed a memorandum of understanding with the Ontario Waterpower Association (OWA). Ms Howard is meeting with OWA to identify internship possibilities for Aboriginal engineering students with waterpower companies that have partnered with Aboriginal communities in the past.
“As Aboriginal communities in Canada increasingly manage their natural resources and build foundations for economic development, they will need more skilled engineers in many sectors – including waterpower,” says Kimberly Woodhouse, Dean, Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science.
Ms Howard, a Mohawk from Kanehsatake, Quebec, helped establish the Queen’s Native Students Association as an undergraduate student. After serving as Queen’s first Aboriginal outreach officer, Ms Howard completed the Aboriginal Teacher Education Program at Queen’s. She returned to her community and taught elementary school students for nearly a decade. In addition to her strong education background, she is quite familiar with engineering, as her siblings are both practicing professional engineers.