The Kaié:ri Nikawerà:ke Indigenous Bridging Program started its pilot year in September, with only one student.
This semester, without much fanfare, Concordia University opened the new Kaié:ri Nikawerà:ke Indigenous Bridging Program. The program is a first in the university, and this semester, it only has one student.
The program is meant for Indigenous students who do not have all the prerequisites to apply for a bachelor’s program. For now, the Bridging Program is only offered to students trying to get into engineering programs.
The program was first announced last January. According to program coordinator Saba Din, this did not allow enough time to recruit students—especially because the program targets students with an atypical academic journey.
“It’s a short window of time for students who never thought university was an option for them, to rearrange their life and try to make university an option for them,” said Din.
She also mentioned that the position of Indigenous recruitment officer at Concordia has been vacant for the last few months, which made it harder for her team to connect with Indigenous communities and publicize the program.
While they did receive applications, Din said that “some applicants were not eligible for this program due to various reasons.” Eventually, the program opened its pilot year with only one student.
The creation of the Kaié:ri Nikawerà:ke Indigenous Bridging Program was an initiative under the Indigenous Directions Action Plan when it was reopened in 2021. Manon Tremblay, senior director of Indigenous Directions, explained the importance of making post-secondary education more accessible for Indigenous students.
“Because our education falls under a federal jurisdiction, what ends up happening is that decisions are made on a budgetary line,” Tremblay said. “In small communities, when there aren’t that many kids—if, for example, one year, there’s only one or two kids for grade 10 or grade 11 math—there may be some executive decision made where that class is not going to be offered that year.”
Tremblay was not surprised when she learned there was only one student in the pilot year of the Bridging Program. According to her, the lack of popularity comes from starting with a bridge to engineering programs, which are not a popular choice among Indigenous students. Instead, they tend to lean towards programs like business, psychology, and art therapy.
“What we notice amongst our student population throughout the years is that Indigenous students have a tendency to choose programs where they’re either going to go back into their communities to invest their new skills and their new knowledge in the social economic development of their communities,” Tremblay said, “or they choose programs where they gain a better understanding of their place in society and Canadian society as Indigenous people, or a combination of those two.”
Din is hopeful that this interest will be reflected in the expansion of the Bridging Program next year. She is currently working on creating bridging options leading to a Bachelor of Commerce, and a Bachelor of Arts or Science in psychology.
Her team is also considering a part-time option for students who may have to work their schedule around jobs or kids. “We have this program as a full-time option to really build that sense of community, and really have a cohort as a way to support the students in this transition,” Din said. “That doesn’t mean that we won’t offer a part-time option in the future.”
Din recently met with some of the Indigenous JMSB alumni for a focus group to discuss ways to support students in the Bridging Program. Some of the ideas that were brought up included academic and mental health check-ins, and peer mentoring with older Indigenous students.