Jul 23, 2019

Indigenous Students Find Academic Success Through Qualico's Bridge to Success Program

Winnipeg, MB – Each year, approximately 500 First Nation, Inuit, and Métis students start their post-secondary education journey at the University of Manitoba (U of M).

The University’s Indigenous Student Centre is there to welcome them and, with the support of Qualico’s Bridge to Success Program, provide them with important skills to ensure they are successful in their academic endeavors.


The Bridge to Success Program was launched in the 2016/2017 academic year and is designed to help new Indigenous students transition into post-secondary education at the U of M. It does so by offering pre-orientation activities, academic learning support, advising, peer mentoring, and special events to enhance the students’ first-year experience.

This free, voluntary program is also focused on developing the spiritual, physical, mental, and emotional well-being of Indigenous students who attend the university, which can translate to academic success in subsequent years of study.

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2018 Qualico Bridge to Success Boot Camp participants

The program is unique among others offered in Canadian universities in that it is the only program with a Reading Specialist, is offered entirely by the Indigenous Student Centre (not attached to admission conditions or specific course programming), is available to any first-year Indigenous student, and is funded by a donor.

Christine Cyr, Director of the Indigenous Student Centre, said the Qualico Bridge to Success Program helps to support the university’s goals when it comes to Indigenous students:


The University of Manitoba is committed to creating a strong foundation for Indigenous students, and this program allows us to promote Indigenous student success in meaningful and intentional ways.

One of the more recent offerings through the program is the Qualico summer internship in land development. Students have the opportunity to do four rotations in the areas of surveying, naturalized contractors, landscape contractors, and multi-family development.

Mike Armstrong, Operations Manager at Qualico Communities, Winnipeg, has worked closely with summer interns. Through interactions with the interns, he has learned about the challenges Indigenous students can face when they move to a larger city like Winnipeg from smaller, more remote northern communities, and he has enjoyed helping them overcome some of those challenges.


“I really feel that the extension of the summer internship helps the students gently integrate into the workforce like a co-op education program would,” he said. “We look forward to continued success in the future with this partnership.”

Other opportunities provided by the Bridge to Success Program include:

  • Boot Camps – Give students the chance to meet staff and instructors, take part in note-taking sessions and mock lectures, meet current U of M students, learn about Indigenous Student Resources, get a campus tour by Indigenous Recruitment, and listen to a cultural talk.
  • Reading Specialist – Comes once a week to meet with students who are interested in learning skills on how to read and comprehend their textbook materials better, offered in both one-on-one and group settings.
  • Neechiwaken Indigenous Peer Mentor Program – Matches new Indigenous students with experienced Indigenous students for mentorship purposes, and includes monthly meetings and social activities such as game nights, movie nights, and pancake breakfasts.
  • Introduction to University (ARTS 1110) – A reserved section of the course for Qualico Bridge to Success Program participants that prepares students for university-level essays and paper writing, and provides learning strategies.

Miriam Unruh, Instructor at the U of M, teaches the ARTS 1110 (Introduction to University) course for Bridge for Success Program students and noted the course’s impact on those participating.

“The course is demanding, but the lab created for the students allows for additional supports and increased contact with their Bridge to Success cohort, which contributes to their potential success,” she said. “And many are successful; last year, the student with the highest grade in my class was a Qualico Bridge to Success student.”

Any student who is applying to the U of M and who self-identifies as Indigenous during the application process is eligible to take part in Qualico’s Bridge to Success Program over the course of the academic year.

To complete the program, students are expected to have either a full-time or part-time course load by the end of the year and attend at least three program events during the year. Those who successfully complete the program are eligible to win 1 of 4 tuition awards valued at $500, which are distributed in September.

In the 2017/2018 academic year, nearly 70 per cent of the 41 students who were in the program successfully completed it, and almost 70 per cent of participants returned to their second year of classes in 2018/2019.

Proof of the program’s importance can be seen in the students’ reflections on their experience.

“Qualico Bridge to Success Program has greatly expanded my knowledge on what is expected of a university student, the resources out there, and how to approach my goals with an open, positive mindset,” said Solana Pratt. “This program aided me in becoming more comfortable on campus.”

Another student, Zoe Quill, shared, “This program has given me tools to succeed and an unconditional support system from both the Indigenous Student Centre and the university. I have made friends who are driven like me and mentors who I learn from every day. I know that because of this program, I am able to go through the rest of my degree with confidence and success.”

Thanks to various marketing and promotional initiatives, interest in the program has been increasing each year and there has been an uptick in attendance at events and classes.

There are also upcoming plans to expand the program by partnering with another program to ensure students’ success in their second year of studies, as well as plans to create a laptop borrowing program for students, hold group study sessions, and increase lab space for the ARTS 1110 course.

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