Located in London, Ontario, Western University is committed to making Indigenous students feel at home by evolving its existing supports and services.
Kylie Bressette (She/her)
Manager of Indigenous Admissions and Enrollment Office of Indigenous Initiatives, Western University
Making Indigenous students feel welcome is nothing new at Western University. For many years, the Indigenous Student Centre (ISC) – part of the Office of Indigenous Initiatives – has provided students who identify as First Nations, Métis, or Inuit with spaces that honour their culture and languages, and programs and services to support their academic and social needs.
What is new are Western’s recent stepped-up efforts to increase recruitment, admissions, and retention of Indigenous students, as laid out in the University’s Indigenous Marketing and Recruitment Implementation Plan. “Western is striving to be a university of choice for Indigenous students so we’re working on ways to make it feel even more welcoming,” says Kylie Bressette, Manager of Indigenous Admissions and Enrolment at Western. “One of the goals of the Plan is to increase awareness of ISC resources among all the departments, staff, and faculty, so that they know how to direct Indigenous students if they ask for help,” she says.
Removing financial barriers
Western offers many different forms of financial assistance, including an emergency bursary for students to help Indigenous students stay in school. There are numerous grants, scholarships, and bursaries to assist Indigenous students at all stages of their education.
One recent addition is the new National Indigenous Scholarship Program, awarded annually to five incoming Indigenous undergraduate students studying full-time at Western’s main campus. At a more local level, the Local First Nations Scholarship Program awards to eight students from a local First Nations Territory who are enrolled full-time or part-time in an undergraduate, graduate, or professional program at Western. Finally, the Dr. Valio Markkanen Indigenous Undergraduate and Graduate Awards of Excellence of $1,000 is awarded to an Indigenous undergraduate and graduate student who has demonstrated academic excellence and contributed to their own Indigenous communities and Western’s campus community.
Celebrating Indigenous students and alumni
Western is dedicated to celebrating the successes and accomplishments of Indigenous students and alumni. “They come back to visit once they graduate and become our ambassadors amongst friends and family,” says Bressette. In fact, for the last decade, the Indigenous Student Centre has hosted and Indigenous graduation ceremony with friends and families present. “They can now also wear their own regalia to Western convocation ceremonies if they wish, instead of the traditional cap and gown, which is a really good step towards increasing our visibility within the Western community,” she says.
The new Indigenous Learning Space is set to open in July. “This will include new offices and a large social space where we’re hoping to hold pow wows, round dances, and other celebrations which we think will be another draw for the students,” says Bressette. “As a former Western Indigenous student myself and now an Indigenous staff, I know the importance of our Indigenous students being able to see themselves represented within this space. Coming into a post-secondary institution can be intimidating, so having these spaces helps them feel welcome,” says Bressette.