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College reaches out to Mi'kmaq. (Education).

Mi'kmaq people living on Cape Breton Island have an easier time pursuing a post-secondary education, thanks to a number of programs and supports offered to them by the University. College of Cape Breton (UCCB).

The UCCB, located in Sydney, N.S. has long offered Mi'kmaq and other Aboriginal students, support services through its Mi'kmaq student services. But last year the UCCB went one step further, establishing the Mi'kmaq College Institute, which goes beyond simply helping Mi'kmaq students on campus by reaching out to the broader Mi'kmaq community.

Patrick Johnson has been working at UCCB since 1990, first as Mi'kmaq student advisor, and now as the internal director for the Mi'kmaq College Institute.

"The college institute oversees all the other services that are provided, or were provided by the UCCB, and now they're under the umbrella of the Mi'kmaq College Institute." Johnson said. "Our branch is extending to quite a few areas at UCCB."

Those areas include Mi'kmaq student services and the Mi'kmaq resource centre, where books, journal articles, video and audio tapes, and masters and doctoral theses by or about Mi'kmaq people are collected and made available for research purposes.

Johnson estimated the centre has about 2,300 pieces in its collection, with the emphasis on collecting information on the Mi'kmaq people specifically rather than Aboriginal people as a whole due to budget constraints, and the high number of Mi'kmaq students attending the university.

There are currently about 240 Mi'kmaq students enrolled at the UCCB, along with a few students from other Aboriginal groups, Johnson said.

Each year, more Mi'kmaq students attend the UCCB than at any other institute in Eastern Canada, and the university has the highest number of Mi'kmaq graduates.

The resource centre is available to all UCCB students, as well as to educators from outside the university.

The UCCB also offers a wide variety of courses in Mi'kmaq studies, dealing with such diverse topics as language, history, government, ecology, and spirituality. Students can major in Mi'kmaq studies, working toward either a bachelor of arts or a bachelor of arts in community studies.

The UCCB, in conjunction with the college institute, also offers a program designed to encourage more Mi'kmaq people to enroll in science programs--the Mi'kmaq Science Advantage Program, or MSAP.

The number of Mi'kmaq students studying science at UCCB has traditionally been low, Johnson said. In fact, of the 252 Mi'kmaq people that have graduated from the university, only two of those graduated with a bachelor of science.

"The Mi'kmaq Science Advantage Program was developed to entice Aboriginal students, and challenge them to take a science course. Our first intake of it was two years ago. This is their third year that they're coming here. And we are expecting five people to graduate with a bachelor of science in community studies," he said.

The MSAP program targets students while they're still in high school, linking high school science studies with post-secondary studies, and helping prepare students for science programs at the university level.

A number of science courses have been designed to be offered in conjunction with MSAP, incorporating traditional knowledge along with Western science, Johnson explained. Known as MSIT, these courses were named for the Mi'kmaq word 'msit', meaning 'everything together'.

"The MSIT courses are called 'Toqwa'tu'kl Kjijitaqnn' which is 'let's bring the two knowledges together.' And we have tried to incorporate Mi'kmaq science into western European traditional science, and courses are taught from both world views," Johnson said.

Another program offered at UCCB is Elmitek, a one-year post-secondary program designed to help Mi'kmaq students make an easier transition into university.

Elmitek is a Mi'kmaq expression that means showing someone the path to follow. The program eases students into the university setting, with several classes offered in their home communities, and classes at the university campus itself limited to only one day per week. The Elmitek program is currently being offered in Eskasoni, where two courses are being taught on reserve, and one at the university.
COPYRIGHT 2002 Aboriginal Multi-Media Society of Alberta (AMMSA)
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Title Annotation:University College of Cape Breton
Author:Petten, Cheryl
Publication:Wind Speaker
Geographic Code:1CANA
Date:Nov 1, 2002
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