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UBC Reports | Vol. 49 | No. 8 | Aug. 7, 2003

Campus Recruiters Step up Efforts to Attract First Nations Students

Traditional methods just aren’t working

By Brian Lin

What do a summer camp, a soccer tournament, a business program and a Web site have in common?

They are all examples of UBC’s renewed commitment to increase aboriginal student enrolment and to support aboriginal students at UBC.

In 1996, Dan Birch, then-VP Academic, urged the Senate to pass the now famous “one thousand by 2000” motion, which stipulated that UBC was to recruit 1,000 First Nations students by the year 2000.

“Whatever methods were employed, we fell far short of the target,” says Herbert Rosengarten, executive director, Office of the President, and official keeper of the Trek 2000 vision.

There are currently approximately 500 self-identified First Nations students at UBC.

“Over the last couple of years, the university has recognized that we need to adopt very different methods if we hope to be more successful at recruiting First Nations students,” says Rosengarten.

“We have to identify the community’s goals and aspirations and be able to show aboriginal youth that higher education is as much their right as everyone else’s.

“We need to work in the schools and assist potential students to achieve the necessary standards to meet entry requirements. We need to provide positive encouragement to non-traditional learners and to form an alliance among the native bands, government, and the universities to find -- and fund -- long-term solutions.”

The following are highlights of some of the initiatives launched in the past year.

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Musqueam Soccer Tournament

More than 1,000 First Nations kids and their families spent a recent weekend kicking back on UBC campus, and kicking some ball, too.

The Musqueam Indian Band All Native Youth Soccer Tournament, held June 27-29, 2003, was part of UBC Community Affairs’ Bridge Through Sport program. The joint effort with the Musqueam Indian Band brought 39 teams of aboriginal youth, aged four to 16, onto campus, representing 15 Indian Bands across the Lower Mainland and Vancouver Island.

In her opening remarks, greeting the players, UBC President Martha Piper said that many bursaries and scholarships allocated for aboriginal students at UBC went unused last year and encouraged aboriginal youth to set their sights on UBC.

“UBC is here for everyone and it will always have a special place for B.C.’s first peoples,” said Piper.

“We want to show First Nations youth what UBC has to offer and make them feel welcome at UBC,” says Community Affairs Executive Director Sid Katz. “We want them to have fun here on campus, but more importantly, we want them to come back, to study here.”

Musqueam band manager Daryl Hargitt says the feedback from First Nations communities has been overwhelmingly positive.

“It was a great opportunity for us to share in the camaraderie,” says Hargitt. “To host the tournament on traditional Musqueam territory was very significant for the participants.”

Katz says planning for next year’s event is already underway.

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Aboriginal Co-ordinators

The recent creation of aboriginal co-ordinator positions in a number of faculties has infused new energy into aboriginal student enrolment and support at the faculty level. The Faculty of Science, the Faculty of Agricultural Sciences and the Faculty of Medicine are the latest to follow this trend.

Tim Michel works with both the Faculty of Agricultural Sciences and the Faculty of Science to turn the tide of minimal aboriginal student enrolment.

“Historically, there has been one aboriginal student entering the Faculty of Science per decade,” says Michel. “On average there is only a 37 per cent high school graduation rate, and of these aboriginal students few continue on to university or college.”

This fall, five aboriginal students will enter the Faculty of Science, bringing the total to 21. The only aboriginal student currently enrolled in the Faculty of Agricultural Sciences will be joined by three to five newcomers this September, thanks to Michel’s tireless work.

In addition to organizing outreach events with the Musqueam Indian Band and other B.C. aboriginal communities, Michel has organized a panel on aboriginal science issues, encouraging dialogue among aboriginals in urban and rural areas, government agencies and alumni.

The Faculty of Science is also launching a new Web site --
aboriginal.science.ubc.ca -- in September.

“We’ll be posting information useful to aboriginal science students at UBC and potential science students in the K-12 system, as well as teachers and school counsellors,” says Michel. “The goal is to make science at UBC more accessible and approachable to aboriginal students.”

The Faculty of Medicine hired its aboriginal programs co-ordinator in July 2002. James Andrew, who was previously the community liaison co-ordinator for UBC’s Institute for Aboriginal Health, says his appointment coincided with a number of admission policy changes that encourage aboriginal students to join the Faculty of Medicine.

“For years our faculty has witnessed a severe under-representation of aboriginal students,” says Andrew. “Last year we decided to target five per cent of the annual complement of funded seats for qualified aboriginal students.”

As a result, the faculty received seven aboriginal applicants in 2002 and 12 in 2003. Five aboriginal students will begin medical school this fall.

Unlike other Canadian medical schools that also actively recruit
aboriginal students, Andrew says the creation of his position ensures that students receive support after they enter medical school and that issues such as cultural knowledge and traditional practice are addressed.

Aboriginal Residency Program

Launched last spring, the Aboriginal Residency Program in the Dept. of Family Practice is a unique program that allows medical graduates to focus special attention on aboriginal health-care issues.

“Aboriginal people in B.C. and throughout Canada have the poorest health status of any identifiable group in Canada,” says Dr. Isaac Sobol, director of the Division of Aboriginal People’s Health and the Aboriginal Residency Program. “Until now, no Canadian medical schools provided specific training for physicians who plan to work with aboriginal individuals or communities.”

In addition to specialized fields such as substance and physical abuse, the program offers electives in aboriginal cultures, history, and spirituality to prepare physicians to deal with complicated issues that affect aboriginal people’s health status.

“Many factors have contributed to the state of aboriginal people’s health today,” says Sobol. “Physicians intending to work in aboriginal communities need to be aware of issues such as epidemics of infectious disease brought over by Europeans, the residue of the residential schools, and the relocation of aboriginal peoples to reserves in order to provide care that is truly sensitive to their needs.”

Dr. Shannon Waters, who graduated from UBC medical school in 2002, was one of two candidates chosen from across Canada to enter the program last year. So far, she has worked with peri-natal women struggling with addictions and is planning a trip to New Zealand to learn about indigenous health in Maori communities.

“I’ve met with aboriginal physicians from across Canada and elders from reserves around B.C.,” says Waters, of the Chemainus First Nation. “The program gives us the flexibility to address many aspects of health-care delivery in aboriginal communities.”

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The Institute of Aboriginal Health will receive $1.5 million over three years to establish the B.C. Aboriginal Capacity and Developmental Research Environment (ACADRE).

Led by UBC, the provincial initiative joins a network of ACADREs across Canada aimed at improving the health of aboriginal people. It is unique in its emphasis on the development of a community-driven research agenda.

The four main themes of the research project include: supporting community-determined research, promoting health research training for aboriginal people, supporting ethical research practices inclusive of aboriginal traditional knowledge, and promoting holistic wellness in mental health and addictions.

To date, eight research awards have been allocated, including two undergraduate students, three masters students and three PhD students. Six of the awards were won by UBC students.

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Chinook Business Program

A new aboriginal business program will provide aboriginal entrepreneurs with the know-how to jump-start their careers in business.

Named after the ancient language of trade, the Chinook Aboriginal Education initiative was launched by the Sauder School of Business and the First Nations House of Learning on May 9, 2003.

The inaugural ceremony was attended by UBC President Martha Piper, presidents and deans from partner colleges and leaders in the aboriginal business community.

The program places great emphasis on aboriginal business issues and makes business education more accessible to aboriginal students through partnerships with six colleges across B.C.

Students can work towards a two-year Chinook Business Diploma at Camosun College, Capilano College, College of New Caledonia, the Institute of Indigenous Government, Langara College or Northwest Community College, and continue on to obtain the Bachelor of Commerce Degree, Chinook major, at UBC.

Sauder School of Business Dean Dan Muzyka says the foundation has been laid to bring the program to fruition and to serve the next generations.

For more information, visit www.ch-nook.ubc.ca.

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Last reviewed 13-May-2008

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