STEMinA students stand in Stirling Hall.

Making a smooth transition

The transition from high school to post-secondary education can often be a daunting proposition. Faculty of Arts and Science students enrolled in the STEM Indigenous Academics (STEMInA) program got an early jump on university life thanks to Transition Week, an on-campus orientation program for Indigenous STEM students, one week prior to general move-in.

Now in its third year, STEMInA is an academic support and community-building program for Indigenous students enrolled in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) -based undergraduate degree programs at Queen’s University. Students are from Arts and Science, Engineering and Applied Science, and Health Science.

The intent of the STEMInA program is to create a strong and successful community of Indigenous STEM students at Queen’s through services, programming, and events. In addition to ensuring Indigenous STEM students have the tools they need to be successful in their degree programs, STEMInA intends to alleviate the experience of isolation felt by many Indigenous STEM students through building a distinct Indigenous STEM community.

“It went really well, it went off without any major disruptions,” says Melanie Howard, STEMInA Director. “One of the key things is the students feel really grounded being here and it really sets them up with friendships I truly know will last the rest of their lives. Knowing they have a community to rely on is the most important message.”

The week started with two days of family orientation and continued throughout the week to welcome first year undergraduate students to their new surroundings, academic programs, and community in Kingston. Accommodation and food for both the family orientation and transition week are provided by the STEMInA program, and students get to move directly into their new homes in residence.

Two students work in a lab.

Along with presentations by Student Academic Success Services, the students were able to tour the Agnes Etherington Arts Centre, take a haunted walk-through Kingston, and hike Rock Dunder.

“My son Carter and I toured a lot of Universities prior to accepting Queen's and the STEMInA Transition Week was one of the reasons we accepted Queen's,” says first-time university Mom Patsy Jacobs. “The support the school provides for the indigenous students is amazing. The week gave me relief in knowing Carter was going to be in good hands with so many wonderful people he could go to if needed. Having the weekend to get to know everyone behind the scenes on a more personal level, hearing their stories, and the services they provide gave me as a parent a sense of calm before leaving Carter on the Sunday. I’m hoping Four Directions will become his home away from home.”

Anna Godbout says she lives about 30 hours away from Kingston, so it was important for her family that her daughter Emma was comfortable in her new home.

“After meeting Kayla (STEMInA Coordinator Kayla Bourdeau) and the other STEMInA students, it made us more relaxed leaving Emma with a group of peers similar to her,” she says. “Emma has utilized several tips that STEMInA offered (study areas, study tips, etc.) and was comfortable navigating the grounds at Queens only days after we left. She has made great friends and will utilize the cultural and academic support for indigenous students Queens offers.”

The students themselves also appreciate the support they receive as they transition into the next phase of their academic lives.

“I found that the transition week really helped me ease into university life and living on my own,” says Carter Jacobs. “I met lots of new people and learned lots of helpful things. Having the week before classes started to tour the campus and get a feel for Kingston was very helpful. Overall, the transition week was a lot of fun and I would highly recommend this to first year STEMInA students coming to Queen’s.”

To learn more about the program visit the STEMInA webpage.