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AISES in Canada National Gathering: An opportunity to connect with Indigenous students

April 28, 2023

Giving students and professionals the opportunity to gather, connect, and create long-lasting relationships within Canada and across the continent

From March 3–5, over 200 Indigenous post-secondary students attended the American Indian Science and Engineering Society (AISES) in Canada National Gathering to learn more about science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) career opportunities. The event program included keynote speakers, research posters, and opportunities to connect with other students and professionals working in the industry. Hosted in Vancouver, Stantec was a gold sponsor at the event where we had an information booth geared toward students and as well as two speakers at the event: Kip Skabar and Maria Mampe.

Kip and Maria reflect on the event, along with regional leader, Brian Yates, senior Indigenous relations specialists, Darcy Aubin and Theresa Frankel, and Adam Leggett, Alaska Native program manager.

L to R: Adam Leggett, Maria Mampe, Brian Yates, Darcy Aubin, and Theresa Frankel

Kip shared his journey to engineering with the students and how one chance encounter inspired his career. “While in high school, I played golf with an engineer from Reid Crowther who inspired me to pursue a career in civil/structural engineering,” Kip said. “That same engineer helped me obtain my first engineering co-op assignment a few years later; it has been a constant reminder for me of the importance of mentorship for developing professionals and building long-lasting relationships. It was great to share my career story with the students and share my experiences in the hopes of inspiring future engineers to join our industry.”

Maria presented to the students on the important role Indigenous people play in archaeology. “My presentation focused on the development of archaeology as a science and its roots in imperialism and colonialism and strategies that can be employed to decolonialize archaeological practice,” Maria said, “After a quick run through of archaeological theory and its beginnings in Greek and Roman antiquarianism, we discussed the modern recognition that a Western worldview was serving to effectively alienate Indigenous people from archaeological study. I also shared strategies to promote meaningful participation and leading roles for Indigenous people in archaeology and a case study of a community-led archaeological study.”

Maria said it was encouraging to meet with people from across North America and hear how different Nations are beginning to take charge of their own histories and to speak with students who are likewise committed to bringing about a paradigm shift in archaeological study and practice.

As well as speakers at the event, we also had a booth where the team, Brian, Darcy, Theresa, and Adam, could chat directly with the students.

“I was very inspired by the students who have been excelling in their field of studies and encouraged by the future of STEM careers within Indigenous communities across Turtle Island,” Theresa said. “Attending the AISES Conference gave us a fantastic opportunity to connect with Indigenous students and organizations who are blazing the way for recognition of Indigenous culture and traditions within STEM fields. Formal learning of STEM traditionally didn’t incorporate Indigenous ways of knowing and the rich cultural teachings, but this is changing with the growing number of Indigenous role models to help support non-Indigenous and Indigenous professionals in transformative learning.”

Theresa is proud that Stantec is helping to build the bridges. “Having Indigenous role models such as Maria, Kip, Darcy, Adam, myself, and so many others across our organization to make STEM opportunities more inclusive. It spoke volumes to see Brian engaging with students and sharing personal stories and career interests; it affirmed that at Stantec, we believe in the value of both Indigenous and Western knowledge, and that it is to be shared and applied equitably.”

Darcy was struck by the energy and enthusiasm the students had for meeting new people and learning new things. “I was encouraged to see just how many brilliant Indigenous students were engaged and flourishing in STEM academics despite all the challenges they face,” Darcy said. “We fielded many questions about what Stantec does and how we are removing barriers for Indigenous people to pursue careers in STEM at Stantec. I felt proud as an Indigenous person to be a representing our organization in support of Indigenous education initiatives.”

Brian said it was a joy to meet and talk to the students, answering questions and listening to their career aspirations. “They were full of insight and energy, and I felt privileged to engage with them about the exciting opportunities ahead. Our future is in great hands,” Brian said.

Adam has said it’s been exciting to watch Stantec’s partnership with AISES grow over the last several years, as well as the overall organization, much of which has been led through their growth in Canada. “As an Alaska Native person, I always enjoy the cultural exchange of ideas and history among the hundreds of Indigenous people represented across both borders,” Adam said. “The sharing of knowledge and opportunities with both students and other professionals at AISES conferences is always something I look forward to.” Coming from a non-STEM background, Adam was first introduced to AISES in 2012 when the US National Conference was hosted in his hometown of Anchorage, AK. “I was so impressed that I joined as a member just so that I could receive their Winds of Change magazine to keep up on scholarship and career opportunities with their partner organizations. With that in mind I was particularly happy to see so many middle school students that were able to attend this year's conference because we’re able to plant the seed of what they think is possible for their educational and career goals.”

Read more about Stantec’s Indigenous Relations and Partnerships and other great Community Engagement initiatives, events, employee volunteerism, partnerships, and sponsorships.

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