Western is clearing a pathway for people who have historically faced social and economic barriers, with a new scholarship program for graduate students who are Indigenous or living with disabilities.
Beginning next fall, the Faculty of Education will support five Indigenous students and five students living with disabilities in graduate programs every year.
Under the new initiative, Master of Arts students will be eligible to receive $10,000 each year for two years. Doctoral-level students will be eligible for $16,000 annually for five years, in addition to Western’s guaranteed PhD funding.
It is the first graduate recruitment venture of its kind at Western.
“This initiative recognizes and starts to redress a serious gap in our faculty – a paucity of Indigenous students and students with disabilities doing graduate research in education,” said Kathy Hibbert, acting dean of Education.
“We’re trying to raise up an under-represented group of students who might not otherwise have the opportunity to attend graduate school. Just as important, they’ll bring insights we’ve been missing, and new perspectives on the theory and practice of education.”
The new scholarship program is in response to an internal review of opportunities for graduate students that showed Indigenous students and students living with disabilities are under-represented in the Faculty of Education’s research programs.
Given that Indigenous students and students living with disabilities face disproportionate barriers in gaining access to and completing their studies, the initiative strives to ‘seed the roots for positive change’ for these groups, Hibbert said.
The newly announced support aligns with Western’s Indigenous Strategic Plan that includes Indigenizing Western’s campus, research and curriculum.
It also reinforces the Faculty of Education’s strategic plan to create systemic, social and ideological change across the faculty; explore innovative recruitment strategies to increase Indigenous graduate student representation; and promote existing or developing new accessible-entry options for Indigenous applicants in professional programs.
“As a faculty committed to social justice and equity, we are creating more innovative, accessible pathways to higher education for Indigenous students and people who live with disabilities,” Hibbert said.
The program will provide two master’s scholarships and three PhD scholarships to Indigenous students each year, and the same number to students with disabilities. Recruitment will run for a limited time – the next four years –with the final intake being offered in 2024.
Adjudication of scholarships will take place within a month of PhD and MA program application deadlines. The Faculty of Education awards committee will adjudicate the applications from students living with disabilities and the Office of Indigenous Education will adjudicate applications from Indigenous students.
Potential applicants can find more information about the process by contacting the graduate programs office in the Faculty of Education.
The announcement coincides with the recognition of Indigenous Disability Awareness month in Canada – a month intended to raise awareness of the unique issues, circumstances and contributions of Indigenous people who have disabilities.