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Supporting Indigenous academics and Indigenous research

New funding and updated policies will support Indigenous graduate students, and students conducting research with Indigenous communities.

[Alex Veinot Queen's Chemistry]
Alex Veinot is a PhD candidate in Chemistry, and a member of Glooscap First Nation located in Nova Scotia. (University Communications)

One in four Canadians holds a bachelor’s degree or higher according to Statistics Canada. Yet for Indigenous people in Canada, the number is just one in ten - making it more of a challenge for Indigenous learners wishing to obtain a graduate education.

To help support Indigenous students seeking their masters or doctorate, the School of Graduate Studies has earmarked additional funding, and introduced a new admissions policy for Indigenous applicants in keeping with the spirit of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) task force’s report.

“These actions are a step toward increasing access to graduate studies,” says Brenda Brouwer, Vice-Provost and Dean (Graduate Studies). “They align with increasing inclusivity in our graduate community and promoting opportunities for research and scholarship that actively engages Indigenous communities.”

Among the changes, the value of entrance scholarships for Indigenous students has been increased from $10,000 to $15,000. Ten such awards are adjudicated each year.

Additionally, an Indigenous Student Admission policy was approved this year to encourage applications from Indigenous candidates and support access to graduate studies.

The regulation applies to all graduate programs in the School of Graduate Studies, and it means that the evaluation of applications from Indigenous candidates will consider academic, cultural, personal, and professional background, along with other factors indicative of capacity for graduate study.

To be considered under this regulation, applicants must self-identify as Indigenous upon application for admission defined as First Nation, Métis, and Inuit Peoples.

“Financial supports such as the Robert Sutherland Fellowship, which I received in my first year of doctoral studies, and other awards with allocations designated for Indigenous students are invaluable for promoting the advancement and development of Aboriginal communities throughout Canada,” says Alex Veinot, a PhD candidate in chemistry. “While Queen’s University has made significant improvements in supporting its Indigenous students both culturally and financially, there are still issues that need further attention in order to greatly improve the experience of Indigenous students at Queen’s.

The School of Graduate Studies has also set aside funding resources to support graduate students conducting research that requires travel to Indigenous communities. Masters and doctoral students engaged in Indigenous-related research can apply for Graduate Dean’s Travel Grant for Indigenous Field Research to help offset the costs.

These awards are similar to the Dean’s Travel Awards for Doctoral Field Research, but address a particular need linked with conducting responsible and respectful research with Indigenous communities. These awards are not restricted to PhD students.

It is expected the first applications for these travel awards will be submitted in the coming academic year in response to a call for applications from the SGS.

To further raise awareness about the distinctive requirements of research collaborations with Indigenous communities, the School of Graduate Studies has partnered with the Aboriginal Council of Queen’s University (ACQU) to organize a series of workshops.

The first workshop was held in October 2017 alongside the Indigenous Research Symposium and attracted nearly 90 student, faculty, and community participants. A second workshop will be held in November 2018 and will focus on issues of ownership and control in research.

“We are working with the ACQU and Four Directions Aboriginal Student Centre to enhance our outreach, and to facilitate research with and by Indigenous communities,” says Marta Straznicky, Associate Dean (School of Graduate Studies). “It is important we build these relationships in a manner that respects Indigenous knowledge, research methodologies, and cultural protocols.”

“Respecting different ways of knowing and facilitating uptake and mobilization of the scholarly work requires that consideration be given to how the work is presented,” she adds. “The revised regulations on thesis structure affords flexibility in how the research is presented for alignment with the nature of the research conducted.”

For more information on support for Indigenous graduate students at Queen’s, visit queensu.ca/sgs/aboriginal-students