Two students are putting The University of Winnipeg’s Indigenous Summer Scholars Program (ISSP) on the map.
Taylor Wilson and Courtney Bear are alumni of the unique 12-week program that allows senior Indigenous undergraduate students and recent graduates to participate as members of research teams, undertaking research on a project with the supervision of a university faculty or staff member.
Wilson spent her summer working with Dr. Jaime Cidro on food sovereignty projects, while Bear worked with Melanie O’Gorman researching clean drinking water on First Nations.
The pair recently made headlines as they were awarded two of three National Indigenous Economic Education Fund (NIEFF) scholarships from the Council for the Advancement of Native Development Officers (Cando).
Both agreed it’s no coincidence two past ISSP graduates were recognized nationally, as the program is noted for providing Indigenous students with the confidence, reassurance, and experience to pursue master’s degrees, scholarships, and much more.
“It gives you confidence that you are where you’re supposed to be,” said Wilson, who graduated with a four-year Bachelor of Arts (BA) degree in anthropology, as well as meeting the requirements for a three-year BA in conflict resolution. “Being an Indigenous student, it’s intimidating to move up in the academic world. So getting together with a bunch of students going through the same thing and working with professors who are supporting you is really amazing for your confidence.”
Bear, who’s a double major with a BA degree in both criminal justice and conflict resolution, echoed those feelings, adding “all of the skills I obtained in the program now help me in the graduate program I’m in right now.”
Wilson called the NIEFF scholarship a “moment of confirmation” for all of her hard work and also confirmation UWinnipeg is doing something right with their Indigenous students.
“It’s exciting to know there are organizations and groups of people willing to invest money in you,” she said. “It gives you hope for other Indigenous students, because if I can get here, so can they.”
A mother of six, Bear said the scholarship not only provides some financial support, but shows there are many opportunities available to Indigenous people.
“It shows my family and children that opportunities of education are out there, and there are scholarships, bursaries, and awards out there that I can apply for to help me financially support myself while I do my studies,” she said.
Wilson and Bear are currently in the Master’s in Development Practice (MDP) program in Indigenous Development. Once they complete their MDP degree, they both plan on continuing their education with the dream of ultimately returning to UWinnipeg and giving back to future students.
“I would really like to give back and move us forward,” Wilson said. “It would be great and fulfilling to know 10 years from now I could be helping a younger version of myself.”
“I hope one day I’m one of the instructors or professors working within the institution, and I can give back what was so freely given to me,” Bear added.