First Nations Community-Building: Walking the Sciences Path with Balance

TitleFirst Nations Community-Building: Walking the Sciences Path with Balance
Duration2 Year
Funding Details
Year 1: Project TitleWalking the Sciences Path with Balance
Year 1: Project YearYear 1
Year 1: Funding Year2002/2003
Year 1: Project TypeSmall TLEF
Year 1: Principal InvestigatorJoanne Nakonechny
Year 1: Funded Amount36,000
Year 1: Team Members

Joanne Nakonechny, Research Associate, Science Centre for Teaching and Learning (Skylight), Faculty of Science
Ian Cavers, Associate Dean, Faculty of Science
George Kennedy, Global Partnerships, Faculty of Agricultural Sciences

Year 1: Summary

First Nations require a body of scientifically literate First Nations people given the new technology­driven provincial economy, the on-going treaty process, responsibility for resource management and the challenges of self-government. Currently, First Nations students and communities still face the consequences of historically instigated educational disadvantages. Although First Nations students are graduating from high school at an ever increasing rate, there are still few students entering UBC in Sciences and Agricultural Sciences. For example, in the UBC 2000/2001 Winter session only 24 self­identified First Nations students were enrolled in the Faculty of Science and few if any were enrolled in Agricultural Sciences. The lack of graduates from these faculties has, and will continue to have, serious repercussions for individuals, Aboriginal communities' self-government and self-determination priorities, and the labour market. The first step in a long-term initiative to aid First Nations student access and success in the Faculties of Agricultural Sciences and Science is the creation of a First Nations Co­ordinator position in the Faculties of Agricultural Sciences and Science.

The resources provided by this project will enable the co-ordinator to take first steps to lessen institutional barriers to access and success by developing community, school, and individual relationships. The Agricultural Sciences and Science First Nations Co-ordinator will achieve the following objectives through this project:

  1. Work with First Nations students, Advisory Committees, Institutes and communities to identify access and success challenges, and develop programs to help alleviate the challenges.
  2. Establish a First Nations Advisory Council (including student and alumni membership) to guide the First Nations Co-ordinator’s work, link with other First Nations Advisory councils at UBC, and establish relevant partnerships with other secondary, post-secondary institutions and businesses.
  3. Present and discuss results in workshops involving both University and external First Nations communities. Discussions and conclusions will be reported through various channels, including websites, journals, community newspapers, Band Councils, Education Counsellors, and will be distributed to students through their undergraduate society.
Year 2: Project YearYear 2
Year 2: Funding Year2003/2004
Year 2: Project TypeSmall TLEF
Year 2: Principal InvestigatorTim Michel
Year 2: Funded Amount30,000
Year 2: Team Members

Tim Michel, First Nations Student Services Coordinator, Faculty of Faculty of Science / Faculty of Agricultural Sciences
David Shackleton, Associate Dean, Faculty of Agricultural Sciences
Paul G. Harrison, Associate Dean, Faculty of Science
Ian A. Cavers, Associate Dean, Faculty of Science

Year 2: Summary


  1. To develop a supportive community for Aboriginal students in the sciences at UBC.
  2. To recruit more Aboriginal students who will be successful at UBC by developing connections with rural and urban Aboriginal communities, by facilitating the development of critical science literacy among students and teachers in the K-12 years, and by exploring linkages with other post-secondary institutions to investigate alternate pathways to ensure that students entering UBC are prepared for success.
  3. To develop resources (electronic and print) that can be used to promote understanding of Aboriginal science issues both by individuals and in courses.


Aboriginal students continue to face problems that stem from historical educational disadvantages. While there are a higher number of Aboriginal graduates from high school each year, the number that continues on to University is still quite low. In addition, only a small percentage of Aboriginal students choose the sciences as their fields of study. Of the 200 or so Aboriginal undergraduate students at UBC last year, only 24 were enrolled in the Sciences and none in Agricultural Sciences. This year 20 students are enrolled in the Sciences and one is enrolled in Agricultural Sciences. This project will help more students see Science and Agricultural Sciences as viable educational programs and will improve retention rates.

Although significant progress is being made through this project and through the establishment of a First Nations coordinator for Science and Agricultural Sciences, achieving the goals of this project is a long-term endeavour that needs additional support to sustain this progress.