The following is an unofficial and unedited transcript of a meeting of the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development. This document is being sent for information purposes only and may not be quoted, as it may contain transcription errors. The edited, translated transcript will be available on the Committee’s website (http://www2.parl.gc.ca/CommitteeBusiness/CommitteeHome.aspx?Cmte=AANO&Language=E&Mode=1&Parl=40&Ses=3) within the next two weeks.
The Chair: Now we’ll go to our final witness and certainly by no means the least, we have joining us from the University of Victoria, the Executive Director for the University, Nikki Macdonald.
Ms. Macdonald, we just need your mike button on there and we’ll see if we can get you here on video conference.
Ms. Nikki Macdonald (Executive Director, University of Victoria): Okay, I’m on. Can you hear me?
The Chair: We’ve got your audio. Okay, there we are. That’s good. We’ve got you live here on both video and audio.
As you’ve probably heard, we have approximately five minutes for your presentation and to all of our witness after this presentation we’ll go to questions from members.
Please go ahead, you have the floor.
Ms. Nikki Macdonald: Thank you, Mr. Chairman and thank you to members for the opportunity for the University of Victoria to speak to you today.
Dr. Lalonde and I are here to speak about broader opportunities for first nation students in post-secondary education and in particular, to share with the committee today the great success we’ve had here at the University of Victoria.
Our success over the past decade has been increasing the number of first nation students at the University of Victoria from 64 students in 2000 to over 700 students in both graduate and undergraduate programs today. I will provide you with a brief overview of some of those innovative programs at UVic and then Dr. Lalonde will speak specifically to the LE,NONET Project, which is a national research program that has been under way at the University of Victoria for the past six years. He will share with you a preview of some final results of that program.
In 1996, as part of its strategic plan, the University of Victoria made a commitment to develop innovative ways to make our programs more accessible for first nations peoples. This commitment has led to a number of innovative programs on campus, including: community outreach programs to aboriginal youth to enhance science, technology, engineering, and math skills; many use student camps; an elders’ program on campus to support students, faculty, and staff; an aboriginal teacher education program; and, more recently, the opening of First Peoples House which creates a welcoming and inviting environment for UVic aboriginal students that respects and acknowledges their cultures and value.
We also continue to work to further the partnership through research with organizations such as: the Centre for Aboriginal Health Research; the Aboriginal Transitions Research Project, which is examining how to support students in their transition to public post-secondary institutions; and, the First Nations Partnership program which trains community members in early childhood care and education in their communities, thus incorporating traditional knowledge and practices with the UVic School of Child Care and Youth Care curriculum.
These are just a few of the programs on campus at UVic and Dr. Lalonde is going to speak more specifically to LE,NONET, the research project.
Dr. Chris Lalonde (As an Individual): Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and committee members.
I want to begin by acknowledging that I’m speaking to you from the traditional territories of the Coast and Strait Salish peoples, and I’ve been asked to give an overview of the LE,NONET Project.
LE,NONET is a Sencoten word, a Strait Salish word, that means, roughly, “success after enduring many hardships”. It was a pilot project funded by the Canadian Millennium Scholarship Foundation, with the aim of enhancing the success of aboriginal undergraduate students at the University of Victoria.
This was a four-year research project. We developed a set of programs, we delivered them to 200 individual students, and we’re currently evaluating the results.
Our programs included two financial aid programs, one a bursary program that would provide aboriginal undergraduate students with up to $5,000 a year for their education, and the other an emergency relief funding program, because we discovered that students often have to endure a temporary financial crisis to complete their education.
We had a preparation seminar that included a general history on aboriginal peoples, specific information about the first nations of these territories, and prepared students to do research apprenticeships and community internships.
Research apprenticeships were matching a student in our program with a faculty member, and they would work together on a research project of mutual interest to them. They received a course credit and a small stipend. Community internships matched a student with someone in a community or an aboriginal organization, again, to work on a project of mutual interest and benefit.
We had a peer mentoring program that matched more senior aboriginal students with incoming students to help them navigate the university. And we had a staff and faculty cultural training component that helped our faculty and staff in their interactions with aboriginal students.
Now, in terms of the funding that we distributed directly to the students, we gave out nearly $900,000, through the bursary and emergency aid program, we gave out $230,000, roughly, for each of the mentoring, the research apprenticeships, and the internship program. So that works out to about $4,100 per student that were in our programs.
Now the question is: how do we measure the success of that investment? Was it worth it?
There are two ways that you can do that. The first way, the more standard way, is to just look at graduation and retention rates: did the students who were in our programs have higher retention and graduation rates than the ones who did? But you can also measure success as it’s defined by students and communities, so: did the programs contribute to the student’s sense of identity, as an aboriginal person? Did it make them feel a part of the aboriginal community on campus?
We had three comparison groups: 1,000 students who attended the university in the five years before our programs began, the comparison group; then our 200 aboriginal student participants who elected to take part in our projects; and 819 non-participants, that is other aboriginal students on campus that elected not to participate.
The Chair: Professor Lalonde, we’ll have to try and wrap it up there. We’re a little over time right now.
So if you could just bring that to a close, and then we’ll go to questions.
Dr. Chris Lalonde: Sure.
Here’s what we found.
For our participants, the continuation rate was 55%, for non-participants, it was 24%, so you get twice the continuation; the withdrawal rate for our participants was 13%, compared to 48% for students who didn’t participate, so two-thirds less withdrawal; 32% of our students graduated during the study compared to 26% of the non-participants; 92% of them said the program contributed to their success; 80% said it made them feel part of the aboriginal community; 70% said it increased their sense of aboriginal identity; 82% said it increased their understanding of aboriginal issues. So, from our point of view, an investment of $4,100 per student pays off quite well.
The Chair: Thank you, both.
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