Access to success


Jordan Coble now works as a curatorial and heritage researcher. Patty Wellborn Photograph

Jordan Coble is among the first Aboriginal students to graduate from innovative program

Seven years after high school graduation, Jordan Coble knew he wanted a career, not just a job.

Luckily, someone suggested he check out the new Aboriginal Access Studies program at UBC’s Okanagan campus.

Coble, a member of the Westbank First Nation, was one of the first students to register in 2007, and this June he expects to cross the stage at convocation with his bachelor’s degree in Cultural Studies.

“I wasn’t the greatest high school student,” Coble admits.  “I knew I was smart enough to do well, but I didn’t have a very good work ethic or the skills to apply myself. The program really showed me what I needed to do to succeed and helped me establish my own study patterns.”

In January he began work as the curatorial and heritage researcher at the Westbank First Nation’s heritage office and repository.

Aboriginal Access is designed to provide Indigenous students with a solid foundation as they are introduced to university studies. Adrienne Vedan, director of Aboriginal Programs and Services, stresses the importance of providing holistic support for student academic and social success.

“The program provides an opportunity for students who might not have been able to attend post-secondary,” she says. “Each student brings a unique skill set with them and we build upon those skills to ensure a successful transition from their first year of studies into their degree programs.”

“I knew I wanted to study, but didn’t really have a clear direction. And now I am working at a place where I can use all the skills I’ve learned.”

Once enrolled, students take three first-year university courses per term. They earn prerequisites they might not have, and gain admission requirements for programs in line with their long-term academic goals.

In partnership with the En’owkin Centre in Penticton, Nsyilxcen, the Okanagan language, is offered along with Indigenous Studies and Aboriginal perspective options such as Math 126 and English 114. The program also incorporates cultural activities such as smudges, visits from Elders, and other social events.

Initially, Coble thought he would pursue a degree in English. But when UBC’s Faculty of Creative and Critical Studies introduced the Cultural Studies degree, he registered for the program and never looked back.

“I knew I wanted to study, but didn’t really have a clear direction. And now I am working at a place where I can use all the skills I’ve learned. Every day I use my research capabilities and my writing skills and I have videography and media skills that I use all the time.”

From just a few students in 2007, the program now has 154 students. Of these, Vedan says 73 per cent have remained in post-secondary studies. At UBC’s Okanagan campus, students have transitioned into various degree programs including Arts, Sciences, Fine Arts, Management, Human Kinetics, Social Work, and Education.

While the growth is exciting, Vedan says the real reward is seeing students succeed. Joining Coble at convocation this June will be three other Aboriginal Access Studies graduates from the faculties of Arts, Management, and Social Work.