Indigenous student success ‘is everyone’s success’

Alliance Pipeline donation to Saskatchewan Polytechnic celebrates Indigenous role models

“It’s not just for Indigenous students, it’s for the campus and the community at large.”

Today, a major funding announcement came out of Saskatchewan Polytechnic that will bolster the efforts of the institution’s Indigenous Student Success Strategy—to provide a place of belonging where all students can feel welcomed, inspired, and empowered.

“The philosophy that guides the work we do is all about fostering a welcoming community and sense of belonging,” says Deanna Speidel, Sask Polytech’s Director of Indigenous Strategy. “If Indigenous students see peers who have come before them experiencing success, they are more likely to believe they can achieve it themselves.”

Sask Polytech is situated on Treaty 4 and Treaty 6 Territories. With four campuses between Regina, Saskatoon, Moose Jaw and Prince Albert, students have the choice of over 180 programs to pursue.

“Our advisors make outreach to Grade 12 students in remote and rural communities to encourage students to start thinking about what they can do post-graduation,” says Speidel. “We want them to know that these career paths exist and that they are real options for them.”

Sask Polytech’s Indigenous student success strategy works to increase recruitment, retention and success of Indigenous students across all programs.

A key pillar of the strategy is the role model calendar, which will hit its 10-year milestone in 2023. Each year, 12 Indigenous students are interviewed and photographed as designated role models, earning them a spot on the calendars.

“Some of our role models are first-generation, post-secondary learners, so they may not even see themselves in that capacity initially,” says Speidel. “We look to represent different programs while promoting gender diversity and representation from Metis and First Nations.”

Every year, 10,000 copies of the calendar are printed and sent to rural and remote communities throughout Saskatchewan, targeting Grade 6 students specifically as they begin to think about job and career options.

“It says, ‘We as an organization are very proud of you and wish you all the best in the future,’ ” says Speidel.

Today, Alliance Pipeline, which is a 50/50 partnership between owners Enbridge and Pembina Pipeline, celebrated with Sask Polytech $200,000 in Fueling Futures funding as part of its commitment to building safe, vibrant and sustainable communities.

The donation was provided in late 2019 prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, which prevented an opportunity to gather and celebrate the institute’s Indigenous Student Success Strategy. Funds are being used for various Indigenous strategy initiatives—including the role model calendar, Indigenous activity book, and other on-campus events.

An event held at the Moose Jaw campus to announce the funding saw former and current role models Shania Fiddler and Jamie Bainbridge speak about their experience at Sask Polytech and beyond graduation.

“Without the support of the broader community investing in Indigenous student success, we couldn’t do what we do to break down those barriers as quickly and effectively as we are,” says Speidel.

With National Indigenous Peoples Day just around the corner, students both on and off campus will continue to celebrate Indigenous achievements and see themselves doing bigger, greater things.

“That’s what Indigenous student success means,” says Speidel.

(TOP PHOTO: Indigenous role models Jamie Bainbridge (at left, with Sask Polytech Indigenous student advisor Rosemarie Stewart Zaba) and Shania Fiddler spoke about their experiences at Sask Polytech during the June 16 event.)