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Memorial University has recently established four new entrance scholarships specifically for Aboriginal students. The initiative is part of Memorials commitment to making the institution more responsive to the needs of Aboriginal students and their communities.
The scholarships were announced by the Scholarships Office within the Department of Student Affairs and Services and are valued at $1000 each and are available to Aboriginal students entering Memorial in the fall semester.
The need for such scholarships was identified as a result of the Presidential Task Force on Aboriginal Initiatives. Initiated in 2009, the task force was chaired by Dr. Evan Simpson, currently serving as vice-president (academic) pro tempore, and included several representatives from Newfoundland and Labradors Aboriginal organizations. The task force outlined 22 recommendations, designed to enhance the success of Aboriginal students of all ages, which will be implemented gradually over the next two years.
Dr. Rob Shea, dean of Student Affairs and Services pro tempore, says that the creation of these scholarships is an important step for the university to take.
These scholarships represent financial support for a number of students, and thats always welcomed. However, the really significant aspect of this development is that we are reaching out to Aboriginal communities and signaling to them that we are interested in helping them fully participate in a post-secondary context. We are willing to create long-term structures and processes that will help attract and retain students from the provinces Aboriginal communities.
Dr. Shea noted that the university is undertaking a number of communications initiatives aimed at making Aboriginal students aware of the scholarships so that they can apply before their arrival in September. While the university can search its applicant file for Aboriginal students, this process will only reveal those students who have self identified. Many students do not self-identify and might not get word of the new source of support for their studies.
Self-identification is one of the challenges we face, explains Sheila Freake, co-ordinator of the Aboriginal Resource Office on the St. Johns campus. Some students will self-identify as Aboriginal when applying to Memorial, but we often hear from students that they dont see any point in identifying because there isnt a benefit, Ms. Freake said. These new scholarships represent one reason why we think its important for students to self-identify as an Aboriginal student.
Ms. Freake noted that self-identification is important because knowing the scope of a need helps the university in general, and her office in particular, plan for things like programs, services, resources and support structures designed for Aboriginal students.
To students, entrance scholarships are often a welcome surprise, helping to ease the financial burden of post-secondary education, and aboriginal students are no different, she said. There is an erroneous assumption out there that Aboriginal students do not have to pay tuition. This is simply not true, and Aboriginal students face the same kinds of pressures, and sometimes even greater financial burdens, than non-Aboriginal students studying at Memorial.
She said that there are some students who receive funding from external agencies, but not many, and the funds are not large, insufficient to cover the expenses of living on your own and paying for post-secondary education. These scholarships are a great start and will help some students, but they also send the right signal to Aboriginal students and their communities, said Ms. Freake.
The first round of scholarships will be awarded in the upcoming fall semester. For details, eligibility and how to apply, visit www.mun.ca/scholarships
or contact the Scholarships Office at (709) 864-3956, firstname.lastname@example.org
, or visit the Scholarships Office, located in Room IIC-4018 of the University Centre, on the St. John's Campus.
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