Starting university can be an exciting adventure, but it can also be scary and daunting, especially if you’re leaving the people you love and the culture you’re most familiar with.
That’s why the University of Lethbridge and the Dhillon School of Business put extra effort into providing a sense of belonging and inclusion for Indigenous students by offering special supports and programs, both for newcomers and those further along in their academic journey.
Indigenous student support services and programs include an Elders program, a free tutorial program an Indigenous mentorship program, an Indigenous Students’ Association, and various financial and academic supports, all of which help ensure students to feel less alone.
“Students from other First Nation communities or from outside the Blackfoot territory seek familiarity where they can feel safe, similar to International students who come to Canada to study,” says Rhonda Crow, the Dhillon School of Business Indigenous Learning and Program Coordinator, adding that supports can make the difference in a student getting connected and knowing they’re in the right place.
“For some Indigenous students, they are the first in their family to attend university and they don’t have the guidance from parents or others who can help them navigate the system, it’s a new experience. That’s why we’re here. To give you guidance and support, we want all students to succeed” says Crow.
“The Elders have a lot of wisdom and a wealth of knowledge, and they are so willing share. They provide a sense of comfort and keep the students grounded. The youth mentorship program not only supports and inspires youth to complete high school, it also encourages the university mentors to continue being good role models and do well in their own programs.”
For Jayne Scout, who’s starting her third year of the Indigenous Governance and Business Management degree at the Dhillon School of Business, the academic, financial and peer support, as well as support from mentors and staff, have gone a long way to helping her achieve her goals.
“All these combined supports have helped me become a better student and have success in my studies, and the financial assistance has really helped me to focus on my academic journey,” says Scout.
“As a Blackfoot woman, I appreciate that I can access supports from Indigenous professors and staff members. I feel comfortable at the university because there are many strong Blackfoot people working here. I also appreciate learning about other Indigenous nations from my Indigenous professors and classmates.”
Ian Thomas knows all about the benefits of student supports and says they played a significant role in his time at the university. Thomas graduated in 2010 from what was then called the First Nations Governance program at the Dhillon School of Business. Today, he is the Director of First Nations and Métis Relations for the Saskatchewan Health Authority.
“I’m glad that I was directed to the supports when I needed them, and that I was able to step outside of my comfort zone and ask for help. The first time was difficult, but making those genuine connections made the rest of my journey at uLethbridge a breeze. I am eternally grateful for all who cared so much for me and my success while I was a student there, and beyond,” says Thomas.
“They supported me in many ways. From sorting out issues with my tuition, financial supports and scholarships to vital supports surrounding my educational needs. The Indigenous Student Centre was a vital lifeline to a sense of community which, as an Indigenous man, was key to my mental health and well-being. Not only did my connection to this space surround me with peer supports, but it also allowed me to connect to supports from the university at large in myriad ways.”
The Dhillon School of Business at the University of Lethbridge is known for its immersive experiential learning opportunities, connecting learners with industry, its supportive, personalized approach and for providing students access to emerging technology. Study options available in both Lethbridge and Calgary.