In 2005, McGill undertook an institutional reflection on the programs and services offered to Indigenous students. An Indigenous Affairs Work Group (IAWG) was initially formed by the then Deputy Provost (Student Life and Learning), Morton Mendelson, and is now chaired by the Dean of Students.
The IAWG was established to review McGill's current program offerings for, research on, and services to First Nations, Inuit and Métis communities. It is worth exploring whether McGill's offerings and services might be improved and potentially expanded by adopting a University-wide approach, bringing together those who have been steering disparate endeavors.
An innovative IAWG program designed to encourage First Nations, Inuit and Métis youth to pursue studies at McGill is now in full swing. Partnership with First Nations communities has been essential for realization of this program. Objectives of the program include:
- Increased University access for First Nations, Inuit and Métis students
- Enhanced academic, financial and psycho-social support for First Nations, Inuit and Métis students
- Recognition of non-traditional learning toward meeting University admissions criteria
- Creation of a seamless transition from the home community to the University community
- Contribution of the University toward educational and socioeconomic potential of First Nations, Inuit and Métis graduates
- Acknowledgement and enhancement of student language, culture and heritage through courses, workshops and activities in partnership with First Nations, Inuit and Métis communities
During a Fall 2016 meeting of McGill’s Indigenous Affairs Workgroup (IAWG), a discussion was held around the Provost’s Task Force on Indigenous Studies and Education. The goal of the discussion was to provide ideas, priorities and suggestions for the Task Force, in part because of the wealth of experience by members of IAWG. This document summarizes the discussion, and will hopefully prove useful for all those engaged in the Task Force.
Key compenents of the IAWG program have already been implemented. These include:
- The development of an admissions' process that weighs recommendations from the community to complement the academic record
- The tailoring of a pre-registration summer session to assure academic preparedness for freshman studies
To uphold the IAWG program's objectives, the University continues to:
- Identify potentially eligible secondary school students, prior to secondary 5
- Orient prospective students to the University environment via an invitational sports camp or wolf camp visit during secondary school studies
- Provide psycho-social support through Student Services and First Peoples' House dedicated supports
- Provide one-on-one academic advising
During recent years, with the support of funding from the Ministère de l'Enseignement superieur et de la science (MELS) and internal pilot-study grants from McGill University, the AAWG has made important progress in supporting increased access for First Nations, Inuit and Métis Students. Following presentations of the IAWG's achievements to University members and to an Aboriginal community focus group, the IAWG reflected on the overall direction, evolution, scope and nature of their mandate at McGill.
McGill University's commitment to First Nations, Inuit and Métis student representation in the undergraduate and graduate cohort will be apparent through the IAWG's actions in the areas of:
- Aboriginal community outreach and engagement
- Access, recruitment and admissions
- Student support and recognition
- Academic and research programs
- Human resources/staffing
The IAWG will report annually on plans, progress and outcomes in each of the areas of activity, referring to the measurable program objectives outlined above.