Forum hears pledge of more support for Aboriginal students
Aboriginal and University of Saskatchewan officials agreed at a June 21 campus forum that the U of S has made strides in attracting and supporting Aboriginal students – but they added much more needs to be done.
The leaders stressed that close partnerships are the only way to achieve long-term success – and in a demonstration of their commitment, the University and Muskeg Lake Cree Nation signed a two-year memorandum of understanding pledging co-operation in helping youth from the reserve attend and succeed at the U of S.
The signing ceremony was just one of a number of events – including a morning pipe ceremony, speeches and small-group discussions – during the day-long forum in the Neatby-Timlin Theatre, hosted by George Lafond, special advisor to President Peter MacKinnon on Aboriginal initiatives.
Now nearly halfway through his five-year term as special advisor, Lafond used the National Aboriginal Day event to report on his progress and seek feedback.
He said while he is also working to promote Aboriginal research, community outreach and cultural programs, “it was clear when I started that if we really want success in this on campus, what we have to do is support students.”
Lafond and U of S Provost and Vice-President Academic Michael Atkinson both told the forum the U of S is a leader in Canada in supporting Aboriginal higher education.
“There is not a university in the country of our size and complexity that has a greater dedication to Aboriginal students,” Atkinson said.
Institutional Analysis Director Rob Schultz and President MacKinnon both noted the rapid increase in the enrolment of First Nations, Métis and Inuit students at the U of S. Schultz said in the three years from 2001-02 to 2004-05 total Aboriginal enrolment went from 541 students to 1,825. Of those 1,825 students, 1,723 were undergraduate and 102 were grad students. And 1,140 were women and 685 were men.
MacKinnon said, “The [enrolment] trajectory is up, and we are making progress on programs and services.
“We are conscious of having so much more to do, and we pledge that through partnerships we will continue to make progress,” the president said.
Musket Lake Education Director Harry Lafond told the forum, “We come to the U of S in goodwill and say ‘We will work with you’. We want to offer to create a culture of contact, and we’re working for a stronger, more inclusive University.”
About 15 young people from Muskeg Lake Cree Nation are expected to enrol at the U of S this fall.