The experiences of Indigenous engineering students enrolled in an access program

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Forrest, Reed
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The Price Faculty of Engineering’s Engineering Access Program (ENGAP) at the University of Manitoba is the longest-running engineering-specific access program in Canada, operating since 1985. The program has over 150 graduates and is widely considered to be successful, while similar programs have historically struggled to gain traction and persist. This qualitative research study explores the experiences of Indigenous engineering students enrolled in ENGAP. Four ENGAP graduates and I told our stories in narrative interviews with the goal of learning of and from our experiences. Métissage informed the theoretical, conceptual, and methodological aspects of my research in this way: I 1) blended both Indigenous and Western frameworks, and I 2) included stories of the four participants together with my own experiences being an ENGAP student and as a participant-researcher to create several thematic “braids” in which all our views were woven together. Themes of educators, community, identity, belonging, giving back, support, and challenges arose in the interviews. I analyzed and discussed these findings using frameworks based on relationality and holism, and then comparatively, to the relevant literature. Findings corroborated several ideas from the literature while providing detailed insight into the specific context and nuances of the participants’ experiences in the ENGAP program and its community. The most prominent of these were the importance of relationships between participants and staff within the access program, the impact on participants when their peers left the program, and the complex relationships participants navigated between ENGAP and The Price Faculty of Engineering. Recommendations for ENGAP, The Price Faculty of Engineering, and prospective/burgeoning access programs are outlined, with emphasis on addressing non-completing access program students with the remaining access program students, investigating the relationship and potential cultural-divide between ENGAP and The Price Faculty of Engineering, and calling for further research with ENGAP students who are in, have completed, and do not complete the program.
Engineering, Education, Indigenous