Indigenous Futures in Engineering (InEng; formerly known as Aboriginal Access to Engineering) was designed to provide a holistic approach to supporting Indigenous students through their academic career at Queen’s. Tutoring and mentoring are important components, but social and cultural support is, too.

“Students are leaving their communities and their families, and sometimes you don't know what you're missing until it's gone,” says Melanie Howard, the director of InEng. “Just having somewhere to come and reconnect and have a community on campus is really important.”

Indigenous students have a dedicated space in Beamish-Munro Hall for quiet study or to meet up with other students. The walls of the room prominently feature graduates. “I can point them out to students and say who has their P.Eng now, and share what they’re doing in their careers,” Howard says. “Our alumni are important role models to our students as they work through a challenging program. They allow students to see that anything is possible.”

Along with the dedicated study and break room, Indigenous engineering students can meet, hang out, and explore their heritage at the Four Directions Indigenous Student Centre, which offers weekly social and cultural events. It is home to a biweekly dinner that is exclusive to Indigenous engineering students at Queen’s, designed to encourage and maintain social connections across disciplines and the four years of undergraduate life on campus.

While some students grew up in an Indigenous community, others find themselves learning about their culture through campus programming. “I didn’t grow up on a reserve, so I kind of struggled with my identity,” says fourth-year Chemical Engineering student Jacob Calderone. “Here, I got to meet students who shared those feelings, as well as students who are really connected with their culture.”

Brielle Thorsen, Sc’20, is a graduate student in Mechanical Engineering and says that she felt somewhat insecure about her identity before coming to Queen’s. InEng has helped her learn more about the Indigenous woman she wants to become. “Coming to Queen’s opened my eyes around just how diverse our experiences are as Indigenous people,” she says. “It was really amazing for me to be able to connect with people who have similar lived experiences.”

“Indigenous Futures in Engineering is about looking at things more broadly,” says Howard. “Each student has their own reason as to why they are engaged in the program, but I think it has a lot to do with coming into their own identities and having a safe community to rely on during their journey to becoming engineers.”



This article is one of five in a series regarding the newly renamed Indigenous Futures in Engineering. To learn more about this initiative, please visit: Aboriginal Access to Engineering is now "Indigenous Futures in Engineering"