The ACS program led to a position in the College of Medicine for Deana Thunderchild.

Aboriginal Career Start program opens doors

The Aboriginal Career Start (ACS) program has received rave reviews from participants since being launched at the University of Saskatchewan in spring 2016.

By Zaheed Bardai

The program, a partnership between the U of S and the Saskatchewan Indian Institute of Technologies (SIIT), the Gabriel Dumont Institute (GDI) and the Saskatoon Tribal Council (STC), placed 18 graduates of administration and business programs in term positions across the university. Of the 18 placements, 13 secured full or part-time employment on campus, while four individuals were accepted into full-time studies at the university.

ACS program chair Paul Sayers is pleased with the results.

“The ACS would have never been possible without the support of our external Aboriginal partner organizations,” he said. “However, we are most proud of the students of the program, as many have obtained permanent full-time employment here at the university in departments outside of their ACS placements. This speaks to the calibre of the institutions where these students have graduated from.”

Due to its success, the program will be offered again this spring and expanded across campus.

We caught up with four graduates and asked them what the ACS program afforded them, personally and professionally.

Dwayne Kinniewess, Saulteaux, Kinistin Saulteaux Nation (SIIT), College of Medicine

What were your favourite things about the ACS program? 
Meeting new people, fellow ACS participants and leadership from different departments of the university. The training helped me understand the systems and programs and I felt very comfortable meeting with other Aboriginal people working here. For the ACS committee and the various levels of leadership to have confidence in me, it means everything to me.

Vanessa Montgrand, Métis, La Loche (GDI), Student and Enrolment Services Division

How supportive were the people involved with the ACS program?
The support I receive from my co-workers, managers and ACS committee has been overwhelming. My co-workers and managers are supportive and are always positive and willing to lend a hand when I need it. The ACS committee has been enlightening, constructive and humble. Their life experience and personal interest with the Aboriginal initiatives at the University of Saskatchewan makes me proud to be a part of the team.

Sharon Robinson, Métis, Green Lake (GDI), Connection Point

How has the ACS program opened doors for you?
The ACS program opened up a door to my new career as a service agent at ConnectionPoint. I love my job and all the people involved, and I can’t thank ACS enough for being able to have this opportunity. For anyone interested in taking the ACS program here at the U of S, I encourage them to do so. It will open up a bright future to a career, and it helps others know that anything is possible.

Deana Thunderchild, Thunderchild First Nation (GDI), College of Medicine

What makes you proud to be a graduate from the ACS program? 
Knowing that I did it, I made the step of choosing a better path for my career. With the ACS program, there are so many opportunities to be involved in something great.

What do you like most about working at the U of S?
The environment would be what I like the most. It is enjoyable knowing you will never go through the same thing, two days in a row.


Zaheed Bardai is a communications specialist with Human Resources.