UBC’s newest student organization seeks to build and strengthen a community
It had to content with launching through the pandemic, but the UBC Okanagan chapter of the American Indian Science and Engineering Society (AISES) is thriving. The success to date can, in part, be attributed to representation from members of the School of Engineering. Students, staff, and faculty have worked tirelessly to develop the local chapter that strives to increase the representation of Indigenous peoples in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) studies and careers.
For engineering MASc student, Christopher Paul, the AISES was one of the reasons he decided to pursue a graduate degree at UBC Okanagan. “During my undergraduate degree, I was fortunate to be participate in a number of programs facilitate by the Indigenous Centre and UBC including the Indigenous Undergraduate Mentorship Program (IUM), an NSERC Undergraduate Research Award, and it was during my IMU when I attended an AISES conference that I really felt a connection with some like-minded people.”
Paul smiles as he recalls that first conference in Saskatoon during the spring of 2020. “It may sound cliché, but the people I met there provided me with a sense of community. I got this feeling that I belonged.”
It was a similar feeling that brought many of the founding members of the UBC Okanagan Chapter of AISES together. Each sought to share ideas and build a welcoming community.
“It isn’t always easy when you enter an institution or walk into a lab, and don’t immediately feel a sense of connectedness,” explains Joel Liman, an Indigenous Student Advisor at the School of Engineering and staff chapter advisor. “AISES provides a platform for students to come together and share their experiences and ideas with peers and prospective students.”
By not being tied to one faculty, AISES is open to students from across the Okanagan campus. Representation includes students from every faculty, all of whom are working towards building a community and spaces that are welcoming and build on the organization’s core goal of representation of Indigenous peoples in STEM fields.
Recently, Paul attended an AISES conference in Portland, and came away with a renewed motivations to continue to build and grow the local chapter. “The foundation of this organization is to inspire others through sharing and collaborating,” explains Paul. “We’re hoping that AISES will serve as a welcoming community for Indigenous students at UBC Okanagan but also more broadly a welcoming community for all.”