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http://www.concordia.ca/content/shared/en/news/main/stories/2019/05/03/concordia-announces-new-top-up-scholarships-for-indigenous-graduate-students.html

Concordia announces new top-up scholarships for Indigenous graduate students

The additional funds will complement existing admissions packages
May 3, 2019
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By Alexander Hackett

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Concordia’s Indigenous graduate students will soon have access to more academic funding.

Starting this summer, a new top-up scholarship will be available to First Nations, Métis and Inuit master's and PhD students who’ve already been awarded scholarships.

“The purpose of this top-up is to help departments become more competitive in recruiting the best Indigenous graduate students to Concordia,” explains Cynthia Raso, manager of Graduate Awards and Postdoctoral Studies.

“In order for programs to make use of the top-ups, they need to already be offering the students a competitive funding package,” she says.

“If there’s a graduate student that we really want to have, then let’s put all our efforts together to get them here — that’s what we want to do for these Indigenous students.”

For the first year of the program, 20 master’s students will be eligible to receive an additional $10,000 on top of the funding they’ve already been offered.

Ten PhD students will also receive $10,000 per year for four years.

‘We want to be leaders’

Heather Igloliorte, associate professor of art history and co-director of the Indigenous Futures Research Cluster, helped lay the groundwork for the top-up program.

She hopes it will fill some of the growing needs of the Indigenous community across Canada and attract first-rate scholars.

“We want to be leaders on this. We want to get out in front of what’s happening in this country. It’s a critical part of the Indigenous Directions Action Plan,” Igloliorte says, referring to Concordia’s recently announced commitment to create a more equitable and inclusive future.

“The top-ups contribute to the building of a broader support system that will help students who may be the first in their family to go to university or are leaving small communities and coming to the big city,” she adds.

“This kind of cushion can go a long way to creating an environment where they feel supported and wanted. We want to make this a space where they not only feel welcome but also excel.”

Striving for progress

According to Igloliorte, access to education for Indigenous people has improved in the years since she first started studying, but there is still much work to be done.

“There are 39 points in our Indigenous Directions Action Plan that highlight changes that we think are really critical to the future success and continuation of our programs here at Concordia,” she says.

“These include everything from understanding our history to sorting out how we get Indigenous people to come to universities and share their knowledge with us in a timely fashion, ensuring that students have a variety of supports on campus and making sure that our faculty and staff are retained. There’s room for improvement in every area but I think we’re putting a plan in place that’s going to enable us to improve.”

A deeper understanding

Asked about what makes Concordia attractive to Indigenous graduate students, Igloliorte points to the university’s relative youth and open-minded approach to sensitive issues that can often get mired in historical prejudice.

“We’re a young institution so we’re a little bit more nimble. The reality is there are colonial ties to the whole educational system and there’s an understandable distress between Indigenous peoples and formal education because of this longer history — residential schools were part of the system, for example, and a lot of older institutions are built on traditional Indigenous territories,” she explains.

“So I think that because Concordia is a young university and we are very future-oriented, we have an ability and an opportunity to make changes that set us up to be a 21st-century institution. We have a great platform to build from here.”

The top-up scholarships send a clear message, she adds.

“We want Indigenous students here and we’re making a real effort to show how an institution can grow and change to better serve them, now and in the future.”


Find out more about
coming to Concordia as an Indigenous student.

 



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