Shawnee Wason runs to hand off a homemade travois to Nahoni Tootoosis. The Aug. 23 relay race was a team-building exercise for students entering the College of Arts and Science's Aboriginal Student Achievement Program this fall.

Indigenous student program gives introduction to campus life

Under the August afternoon sun, teams of students raced around the Bowl dragging odd-looking structures, occasionally spilling their cargo of empty soda bottles.

It was not a traditional introduction to campus life, but Monday’s travois building challenge gave its participants a taste of the teamwork and problem solving that will see them through their university careers.

The activity capped off the first day of ASAP Summer Start, a one-week orientation camp offered this year for the first time to all students entering the Aboriginal Student Achievement Program (ASAP) in the College of Arts and Science.

“It was definitely an icebreaker, so I definitely recommend it,” said Marcia Little, an incoming student from Ahtahkakoop Cree Nation. “As an Aboriginal person and a first-year student, I think it’s really important to take advantage of these programs.”

The core of ASAP is its community of students, who grow close during the school year through shared classes, peer mentorship and cultural experiences. The summer camp is about giving students a head start on building those bonds, said Sandy Bonny, coordinator of ASAP.

“Starting that off before they even come to their classes is a really positive experience. When they arrive at the start of term, they already have a community of peers and a commitment to learning with those peers.”

A similar ASAP summer program has been offered for the last two years, but it was limited to students interested in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) paths. In an exercise last fall, ASAP students were challenged to pitch an idea that would improve the experience of first-year students.

The winning pitch: expand the summer camp to include all ASAP students.

“It was a student idea, and we’ve run with it,” said Bonny.

Originally posted on Artsandscience.usask.ca. Read the full article. 

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