We need more Canadian Indigenous peoples (First Nations, Inuit, and Métis) and Black professors in engineering and computer science fields across Canada.
To rectify this situation, a partnership of Ontario Faculties of Engineering (including McMaster University, University of Ottawa, University of Toronto, Queen’s University, University of Waterloo and Western University) and the University of Waterloo Faculty of Mathematics was created, recognizing that institutions of higher learning need to reduce the systemic barriers that exist for junior Indigenous and Black scholars pursuing doctoral degrees in engineering and STEM programs. This partnership, known as the Indigenous and Black Engineering and Technology PhD Project (IBET), will provide financial support and foster a supportive, respectful community for its fellows. Such support is essential during the rigorous PhD process and beyond, which includes applying to tenured positions.
The partnership of universities has now expanded to include 16 institutions. Recently, the University of Alberta, the University of British Columbia, the Schulich School of Engineering at University of Calgary, Carleton University, the University of Manitoba, McGill University, Ontario Tech University, Toronto Metropolitan University, University of Windsor, the Lassonde School of Engineering at York University, Gina Cody School of Engineering and Computer Science at Concordia University, and University of Saskatchewan joined the partnership.
The IBET PhD Project is intended to foster equitable and inclusive research environments to increase the presence of Indigenous and Black academics in STEM.
This support, which primarily consists of four-year $30,000/annual IBET Momentum fellowships in addition to academic mentoring, will assist in creating a robust presence of what is currently an underrepresented group of young researchers. The success of these scholars will lead to teaching and research careers in academia, industry and policy making.
The IBET PhD Project will follow a proven model; it is based on a successful program in the United States designed to increase the presence of Black academics in business schools. From the success of that program, we know that fostering equitable research environments, providing fellowships, and creating mentoring opportunities will increase the number of Indigenous and Black academics at Canadian post-secondary institutions.
There is no question that a PhD will advance a career; however, in addition to opening potential research careers and academic pursuits for those who wish to guide the education of others, a PhD signifies expertise.
In the field of engineering, this level of expertise works to move industry and innovations forward. Advanced degrees and an understanding of research principals are critical for problem solving and pushing technology further, thus resulting in the betterment of societies around the globe.
Beyond industry needs, however, Canada needs better representation of Indigenous (First Nations, Inuit, and Métis) and Black individuals as leaders in academic institutions. This will prepare the next generation of engineers, of which Canada is in dire need. According to Engineers Canada (which works on behalf of the provincial and territorial associations that regulate engineering practice and license the country’s 300,000 members of the engineering profession, as well as accrediting undergraduate engineering programs), we will have a shortfall of as many as 100,000 engineers in this country by 2025.
We need more engineers to ensure Canada remains competitive and does not fall behind in innovation; as such, the time is now to educate and mentor Indigenous and Black engineering students and researchers. We understand, or should understand, that we all have different lived experiences, and that these differences foster new ways of thinking and facilitate new solutions to some of the most challenging and relevant problems of our times. Multiple peer reviewed studies show how diversity and inclusion improves solutions, increases innovation, and contributes to economic prosperity.
*Depending on the institution. Please confirm with the institution of your choice that the full amount of the IBET Momentum Fellowship funding will be available.
**Confirm with the institution of your choice the eligibility requirements. For the purposes of this fellowship, an Indigenous person is a person who self-identifies as First Nations (Status/Non-Status), Métis, or Inuit as defined in the Canadian Constitution Act of 1982.