media release

SFU welcomes Aboriginal students

September 16, 2011
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Contact:
William Lindsay, 778.782.8924, wlindsay@sfu.ca
Gary George, 778.782.5663, ggeorge@sfu.ca
Carol Thorbes, PAMR, 778.782.3035, cthorbes@sfu.ca


Note: This release is a revision of an earlier one and updates previous numbers.

Simon Fraser University rolled out the welcome mat and barbeque in September for new and returning Aboriginal students, many of whom are studying in a university setting for the first time.

Early fall enrollment figures indicate about 51 new students of Canadian Aboriginal (First Nations) descent are filling undergraduate seats at SFU. Fifteen of them were admitted under SFU’s Aboriginal Undergraduate Admission Policy.

Another 22 new students of Aboriginal descent have come in as graduate students, making for a total of 73 new undergrad and graduate students of Aboriginal descent entering SFU this fall.

The number of Aboriginal students enrolled for the academic year 2009-10 was 467. (The data on Aboriginal students is based on their identification of their background).

SFU senior administrators want to bring the university’s Aboriginal student population up to 10 per cent more than its current number in accordance with the university’s 2011-13 three-year academic plan.

Along with many other goals, the plan strives to help British Columbia’s 170,000 Aboriginal people, just over four per cent of the province’s population, succeed at university.

Assembly of First Nations figures indicate only 27 per cent of Canada’s status Indian population holds a postsecondary certificate, diploma or degree, compared to 46 per cent of the rest of the Canadian population.

Run by SFU Student Services, the Indigenous Student Centre (ISC) held a welcoming barbecue, information session and workshops at the Burnaby campus on Sept. 14.

The event, embracing the theme of building an indigenous community, was open to all returning and new students of indigenous descent globally, but especially aimed to help Canadian Aboriginals acclimatize to higher education.

Indigenous student life co-ordinator and Wit’suwit’en Nation member Gary George and ISC academic advisors advised Aboriginal students about several initiatives targeting them. They include SFU’s First Nations Studies program, an elders’ program with the Office of Aboriginal Peoples (OAP), and a new peer education and mentoring program.

“The peer mentors will be those who not only can speak from their experience as SFU students but from the perspective of being Aboriginal SFU students,” explains William Lindsay. The Cree-Stoney Nation member is director of SFU’s OAP.

“They will thus have the same cultural background and experiences as the students they are mentoring. It's a ‘street cred’ sort of issue. Students who have already been there will be listened to with more credibility by those who are trying to get there, especially if they are of similar background or heritage. The peer mentors will also serve as role models to new ones.”

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