September 5, 1996 * Vol . 7, No. 1

Simon Fraser welcomes First Nations students

Shannon Ryan spent her summer preparing an orientation program that she hopes has helped First Nations students get off on the right foot.

As an assistant at Simon Fraser University's new native student centre, she organized a First Nations Orientation Day in August to highlight what is available on campus in terms of resources, services and programs. She wanted to complement the university's regular orientation with advice that's unique to their situation. "We're trying to make students aware of what's out there and give them the tools to deal with issues when they come up," she explains.

The number of First Nations people enrolling in postsecondary institutions is skyrocketing as more and more recognize that a formal education is the key to operating in the society around them.
Ryan says what's disappointing is the number who actually finish.

"Hopefully, that's where this orientation helped. Setting up a support network is a very important factor in their success."

This year's contingent of newcomers will be the first to experience the results of her efforts. They were invited to bring their spouses, children, friends and family and begin the day with a traditional welcome circle and introductions all around.

"We wanted to get them talking about what's on their mind and sharing their common experiences," Ryan says. "One of the big things is to try and get students to get to know each other, and also to let them know that SFU is committed to them."

Ryan says leaving the reserve is a huge issue for many First Nations people. They've spent their
whole lives in a unique cultural community and while they're on campus, their ties to home are
still strong. A higher proportion are also mature students, often with children and family
responsibilities.


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