New USask STEM+ Program Connects Indigenous Students with Mentors and Career Experiences
ISAP STEM+ focuses on building mentorship and work experiences developed specifically for Indigenous students in STEM.
A new program at the University of Saskatchewan (USask) is connecting Indigenous students with mentors in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) industries for early career experiences.
Indigenous Student Achievement Pathways (ISAP) is an initiative within the College of Arts and Science that welcomes First Nations, Métis and Inuit students to post-secondary studies with a small cohort learning community model.
While ISAP programming focuses on enriching students' academic experience at university, the newly launched ISAP STEM+ program will focus on building mentorship and work experiences developed specifically for Indigenous students interested in STEM-connected career pathways.
STEM+ focuses on building students' resumés in preparation for their careers post-graduation. The program will be facilitated by ISAP STEM+ coach Sarah Gauthier as a two-year pilot sponsored by the International Minerals Innovation Institute.
Gauthier is of Nihithaw (Cree) and French/Scottish-Canadian ancestry and a member of the Lac La Ronge Indian Band. While growing up, mining had a big influence on Gauthier's life. Now a mother of two, Gauthier thinks about how to prepare her own children to enter the workforce.
Indigenous people underrepresented in STEM
Indigenous people and women are both underrepresented in STEM degree programs, industries, and research careers, says ISAP team lead Dr. Sandy Bonny. About 80 percent of ISAP students identify as Indigenous women.
"If you look at undergraduate geology programs, for example, between men and women, increasingly, more women are graduating as geologists. But if you look at employment in the industry sector, they're still grossly underrepresented. There's a retention gap going into careers, even for people who were intrinsically interested in these subjects of study and succeeded in post-secondary spaces."
Bonny added that work internships could be in offices, labs, warehouses, or in the field. Positions could build a range of skill sets, from data systems, communications, and human resources, to graphic design, environmental mitigation, and site monitoring.
"STEM+ students will be coached to identify transferable skills they've learned in those workplace experiences, which they can bring back to campus to apply as academic assets in their programs," Bonny said. Participation in ISAP STEM+ will be recognized on students' USask Co-Curricular Record, an official record of their learning experiences outside of the classroom.
Taking part in ISAP STEM+ at USask
Any Indigenous undergraduate or graduate students in STEM degree programs at USask, or those interested in STEM-connected careers, are welcome to attend events, tours and gatherings offered through ISAP STEM+.
ISAP STEM+ recently kicked off with the reveal of the winning submission in a graphic design contest. Student artist Tia McCallum (ISAP class of 2022) designed an image that reflects the potential and possibilities of engagement with STEM disciplines. In the near future, a trip is planned to Wanuskewin Heritage Park for STEM+ students to participate in a Technology of the Plains learning experience.
Gauthier is also currently working to prepare mentored internships for this summer. Students interested in these opportunities are invited to follow ISAP on Facebook or Instagram!
Learn more about ISAP at USask