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Queen’s supports pathway efforts for Indigenous students

Queen’s is part of a collective of post-secondary institutions looking at improving the transfer student experience for Indigenous learners.

[The project's logo and the gift Queen's was presented with]
In joining the “Expanding the Circle: Pathways for Indigenous Learners across Ontario” effort, Queen’s was presented with a gift – a stained glass feather. (University Communications)

A group of 16 Ontario colleges, universities, and Indigenous Institutes, including Queen’s, are looking at how the province’s post-secondary system can best support Indigenous students as they look to complete a post-secondary credential.

The report, entitled “Expanding the Circle: Pathways for Indigenous Learners across Ontario”, was recently released following a group meeting at Queen’s.

“The purpose of this project is to increase access to and opportunities in postsecondary education for Indigenous learners through the creation of pathways,” says S. Brenda Small, Vice President, Centre for Policy and Research in Indigenous Learning (CPRIL) at Confederation College, and a founding partner on the project.

“Historically, these opportunities to pursue pathways have been limited. We need to make sure that we are building pathways that are responsive to Indigenous learners needs and that support Indigenous learners success and persistence," she adds.

This collective of institutions was founded by Confederation College with Ontario Council on Articulation and Transfer (ONCAT) funding in 2015. Each year since, the collective has added new institutions and received renewed funding from ONCAT. Queen’s was invited to join the group this past year as part of the ‘third circle’.

“This past year was a success,” says Emily Willson, the project’s manager. “We formed partnerships with additional postsecondary institutions across Ontario, and approximately 18 new potential pathways for Indigenous learners were identified, resulting in approximately 44 identified pathways to date. Additionally, the project’s Steering Committee co-developed a series of principles to guide the development of pathways for Indigenous learners."

[Jan Hill with ONCAT report and gift]
Kanonhsyonne (Janice Hill) looks at the gift that was given to Queen's as the university became part of the Indigenous student pathways project. (University Communications)

Kanonhsyonne (Janice Hill) is Queen’s representative at the table, and played host to the other 15 institutions back in March.

Part of joining this group meant mapping out what services each of the institutions had to offer. Ms. Hill says Queen’s fares well on some criteria, such as ‘wraparound services’ from admission to graduation for Indigenous students. Among the gaps: support for childcare and housing, and Indigenous studies courses taught by Indigenous faculty.

“We also currently do not have any articulation agreements in place with other institutions within this project, but we are in discussions which may result in three ‘college to university’ as well as a ‘university to university’ relationship,” she says.

The collective has recently secured additional ONCAT funding. The focus this time will be to evaluate and assess different support projects for Indigenous students across the member institutions, as well as to outline some best practices.

“In this next phase, our focus is on supporting the sustainability of this project,” says Joyce Helmer, Research Associate, and founding member of the Pathways for Indigenous Learners project. “We are aiming to develop a framework for evaluating our process of creating pathways for Indigenous learners, as well as for assessing the success and sustainability of the pathways that are in place as a result of our process.”

To read the full report, visit ONCAT's website.