"When you consider that Aboriginal people make up 15 per cent of the province's total population—we're closing the gap," said Candace Wasacase-Lafferty, director of Aboriginal initiatives at the U of S. "I believe Aboriginal people are choosing to study here because of our reputation. The U of S is a place of integrity and honour and I hope that our students feel that and benefit from that, but they also know they contribute to that."
Statistics Canada reported that in 2011 Aboriginal people accounted for 15 per cent of the total population of Saskatchewan, and with this number expected to rise to somewhere between 21 and 24 per cent by 2031.
"As an institution we want to be able to say we're a destination of choice for Aboriginal students, and this needs to be supported by statistics," said Russell Isinger, university registrar. "Also, having the right data goes hand in hand with having the right supports and services. How we decide to support 1,000 Aboriginal students might look very different from how we support 3,000."
Wasacase-Lafferty has worked at the U of S for more than 15 years and said she has watched as Aboriginal students have positively changed the landscape of the university.
"Years ago we were still taking about underrepresented numbers," said Wasacase-Lafferty. "Our students will be leading a province that is demographically very different than the province we see today and that makes us a healthy province. We invest now in the student experience here at the university because non-Aboriginal and Aboriginal people will be leading side-by-side in the years to come."
Rheana Worme, self-declared as a First Nation student from Kawacatoose First Nation this school year. She is in her first year at the Edwards School of Business and plans to graduate with an Aboriginal Business Administration Certificate. She chose to declare her ancestry to support her program and to contribute to the Aboriginal presence in her college.
"Having a growing number of declared Aboriginal students at the university makes me hopeful that our presence on campus will be considered with respect to consultation and programming," said Worme. "There is a considerable amount of misinformation about Aboriginal culture floating around campus that hopefully the Aboriginal community can help to correct. Having a sense of community at the university can help empower our students."
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