At its ten-year anniversary, the Indigenous student support and youth outreach initiative known as Aboriginal Access to Engineering is taking on a new name:

Indigenous Futures in Engineering.

The name change was necessary for two reasons: the term “Aboriginal” has fallen out of popular use and is reflected across the Queen’s campus in nearly every aspect. Indigenous Council, the university’s programs and services advisory body, and the Four Directions Indigenous Student Centre are just two examples of organizations which have removed “Aboriginal” in favour of “Indigenous.” As well, the term “access” generally connotes an alternate academic pathway, for which this initiative has never subscribed.

Though the name is new, the services of the unit have not changed.

Indigenous Futures in Engineering (InEng) supports the journey of future Indigenous engineers from elementary school through university. Along with outreach programs for elementary and high school students, InEng provides a broad range of academic and social support for engineering students at Queen’s, from tutoring and dedicated study spaces to social events and opportunities to participate in national and international competitions and conferences.

“The overall mission of this program is to increase the number of qualified Indigenous engineers in Canada,” says Melanie Howard, ArtSci’95, Ed’98, the Director of InEng. “We engage with students through the entire journey, from their early years to their time at Queen’s and then as they seek out job opportunities and become engineers.”

Howard is the inaugural recipient of the Principal’s Teaching Award for Indigenous Education for her work with the initiative. She joined the Faculty of Engineering in 2012 tasked to develop Aboriginal Access to Engineering, which soon expanded to include not only holistic support for Indigenous engineering students at Queen’s but also STEM outreach to Indigenous youth in the Kingston area and across the province.

While the number of Indigenous students studying engineering at Queen’s grew from four in 2011-2012 to forty-eight in 2021-2022, the youth outreach effort grew to include two full-time community-based staff who routinely visit classrooms in Indigenous communities in the region, and a robust collection of teaching materials which are available free of charge in any quantity to elementary level classrooms across Canada.

Indigenous professionals from both outside and inside the university, as well as current students and alumni, form the initiative’s Circle of Advisors. Alumnus Haven Moses, Sc’15, is a member of the Circle and began supporting the program while still a student at Queen’s, participating in outreach activities with elementary and secondary students. As part of the Circle of Advisors, Moses says it’s an exciting opportunity to use his experiences to help shape InEng.

“Everyone involved with Indigenous Futures in Engineering was always there to guide me and push me along, whether for academics or job opportunities or mental health,” says Moses. “I’m just happy to give back.”

“It’s important to hear the voices of experience in Indigenous education, business and leadership, but we also need to hear the voices of recent alumni and students to make it really relevant to the direction of the initiative as we grow,” says Howard.

Tabatha Bull, the CEO of the Canadian Council for Aboriginal Business, is also a member of the Circle of Advisors and an advocate of Indigenous Futures in Engineering. “I was very honoured to be asked to be part of the Circle,” she says. “I’m really impressed with the work that they do, because it’s not just about entry into Queen’s. It’s about how we get more Indigenous youth interested in engineering. And how we ensure that they continue on, not just through school but also to get their P.Eng designation. It’s really about the whole cycle.”

Bull says that community-building is vital, even as a CEO of a national organization. “I wouldn’t be able to succeed in my career without that support, and I think it’s so important for post-secondary students to have that as part of their schooling,” she says. “Engineering can seem like a lofty goal or out of reach. Indigenous Futures in Engineering is actively changing that narrative by providing the community and supports that let students bring their culture and their whole selves to school.”

With its new name and branding in place, Indigenous Futures in Engineering enters its eleventh year providing support to Indigenous students enrolled in engineering at Queen’s and inspiring Indigenous youth via classroom outreach to community-based elementary and surrounding high schools.



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"