Queen's University

Engineering and Applied Science seeks more Aboriginal students

 
2011-09-30
Duncan Cree, assistant professor in the Department of Civil Engineering and interim director of the Aboriginal Access to Engineering Program.

The Queen’s Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science is developing a program to attract and retain more Aboriginal students.

“We want to address some of the barriers to an engineering career that young Aboriginal people often encounter,” says Dean Kimberly Woodhouse.

A circle of advisors including Aboriginal faculty members and alumni offered their input during the development of the Aboriginal Access to Engineering Program.

“Aboriginal people make up less than one per cent of the professional engineering workforce in Canada; however, companies are increasingly looking for engineers with indigenous knowledge and background,” says Mark Green, a faculty member and an Aboriginal advisor for the initiative. “Furthermore, additional Aboriginal engineers are required to support the infrastructure needs of their communities.”

“Math, chemistry and physics instruction at the secondary-school level is often weaker in rural and remote schools compared to urban schools. This impacts Aboriginal students’ averages and acts as a barrier because of the high level of competition to get into Queen’s,” says Duncan Cree, an assistant professor in the Department of Civil Engineering and an Aboriginal advisor for the initiative.

The Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science reaches out to elementary and secondary school students and teachers through its Native Access to Engineering website. The online resource details opportunities in engineering and how they are relevant to Aboriginal people and their communities. The faculty also publishes a workbook titled What Engineers Do aimed at primary-grade students.

The Aboriginal Access to Engineering Program has hired Dr. Cree as the interim director for the new program, and a summer job program placing Aboriginal students with mining companies is in the works. The faculty is working with ENGAP at the University of Manitoba to design support programs for Aboriginal students and evaluate the opportunity for collaboration between the two universities.
 

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