The Wawatay path
Discover your inner scientist.
As a Wawatay Scholar, Faculty of Science professors and staff are completely vested in your success. This dedication begins the summer before your first fall semester. You will feel that support through to graduation and even beyond—as you launch a career, start a business, or continue your education.
If staying close to your roots is important to you, the Wawatay path helps you maintain your connection to home. Through community engagement and intercultural learning activities, this program helps you relate classroom learning to meaningful community life and work.
On this page
Attending a big university—especially in a bustling city like Winnipeg—and taking on a science degree can be overwhelming. Even though it’s exciting, there’s so much to get used to new people, the campus layout, the academic rigor and possibly living away from home. Spending six weeks at summer orientation erases the newness and helps get you comfortable. By the time classes start in the fall, you’re ready for its challenges. You’ll have a track record of success to build your confidence in what you know and what you can accomplish.
Of course, this orientation will include what other first-year students get at colleges and universities worldwide – campus tours, ice breakers, social events, and lots of food. As a Wawatay scholar, however, you’ll experience so much more. You will tour a variety of research labs as well as the campus greenhouse, planetarium, and the Indigenous Student Centre (aka Migizi Agamik). You’ll have lunch (and it will be more than just pizza) with local Indigenous business leaders and research scientists representing a wide array of disciplines. These talks will give you a glimpse of what’s possible for you as an emerging science student and future scientist.
One unified team
You won’t just break the ice with the others in your cohort, you’ll melt into water and become one unified team. At least that’s the goal. You’ll have meals together – sometimes at restaurants; partake in adventures in Winnipeg and surrounding areas – sometimes hosted by Indigenous science students; and frequent sharing circles.
And about that confidence mentioned above… you’ll spend three weeks honing skills such as writing, oral presentation, and project management. Skills that not only prepare you for academics but will be useful in your career. After that, you’ll break into small teams to work on a research project led by an instructor. Orientation ends with you and your team presenting your project results.
By the way, at the midpoint, you get a long weekend so you can visit home!
NEW: Wawatay students who successfully complete the summer orientation will receive a stipend for the 2023 session.
Wawatay staples: workshops, research, and mentors
Workshops and research don’t end when you complete orientation; they are both key elements of the Wawatay program.
Although they will occur less frequently than in the summer, the Wawatay program includes skill-building workshops throughout the school year. Some address academic skills such as time management or how to prepare for tests. Others focus on life skills like handling money. Workshop topics evolve as you go through the program. Initially, you may need more study-related skills. As you approach graduation, you’ll benefit more from delving into resume writing, graduate school applications, networking, and even entrepreneurship.
Experimental research projects will also evolve over time. As you become more proficient, learn more concepts and specialize in an area of interest, you will increasingly play a more critical role on research teams, including determining your research topic, which may relate to your home community.
Wawatay emphasizes research because it allows you to take advantage of the Indigenous Way of Knowing and your natural inclinations. The other benefit of research is the strong connection it creates between you and the professor guiding the project.
During the course of your time at the university, you may require guidance from someone other than your instructors. This “other resource” may help you figure out what you should major in, figure out how to get more out of your classes, or help you feel confident after getting a poor grade. Wawatay assigns each scholar a mentor who can help you navigate your way to graduation, to ensure you find the path that fulfills you and lets you achieve your goals.
All Wawatay mentors will undergo training on the art of mentoring. We will do our best to assign Indigenous scientists or science students as mentors, but this may not be possible at first. Over time, we expect to have more because we hope that Wawatay scholars will eventually become mentors themselves.
The learning process and two-eyed seeing
Culture doesn’t only affect what you learn, but also how you learn it and how your abilities are perceived. For example, Indigenous cultures reward patience and completeness. This can conflict with academic environments where quick conclusions are sought and encouraged.
Consider the following story told by the Apache mother of a young child who felt this cultural difference early in his education.
His teacher held up a drawing, then put the drawing down and asked the class what they saw. I saw a horse!” “A horse!” “A horsey!” came the excited responses.
The Apache boy did not raise his hand. This alarmed the teacher, so she arranged a parent-teacher meeting during which she suggested the boy be tested for Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD). The mother turned to her son and asked him what he saw.
He said, “I saw a brown horse on a green hill. It was a sunny day and there were three clouds in the sky.”
One Wawatay program goal is to account for the difference between how Indigenous students learn and how science is taught in non-Indigenous settings. Our strategy for doing this is through Two-eyed Seeing, which encourages all students to view phenomena from two perspectives: traditional scientific analysis and the Indigenous Way of Knowing.
Mi’kmaw Elder Albert Marshall, who introduced this concept explains it as, “Learning to see from one eye with the strengths of Indigenous knowledges and ways of knowing, and from the other eye with the strengths of Western knowledges and ways of knowing… and learning to use both these eyes together, for the benefit of all.”
Integrate Indigenous science and ways of knowing through the Faculty of Science
Two-eyed seeing encompasses looking at the problem by seeing the big picture—how various components interact—while also deeply studying each component.
Behind the scenes, we’re training and encouraging all Faculty of Science instructors to integrate the Indigenous Way of Knowing into how they teach. We want our classes and research projects to reflect defining characteristics of Two-eyed Seeing such as:
- Valuing all perspectives
- Blending and merging Indigenous and Western ways
- Strength-based approach
- Togetherness and co-learning
- Leaving the world a better place
Rather than go deeper into Two-eyed Seeing here, we recommend you spend 14 minutes watching Rebecca Thomas, an award-winning Mi’kmaw spoken word artist, and educator, explain the concept, its source, and its broad benefits in her TED Talk.
Finding your way
Through the Wawatay program, we have worked to anticipate and provide all you need to graduate from the University of Manitoba with a science degree. The other key ingredient in your success is you – your passion, commitment, and discipline. (While it might seem great not to have to work hard, it also wouldn’t be as satisfying or meaningful.)
Besides studying and learning, you also have the responsibility of choosing your program major or degree specialization. This decision point comes when you have completed your first-year courses: Nine credit hours per semester and a total of 18 credit hours per year and taking classes in a variety of science subjects including Physics and Astronomy, Computer Science, Chemistry, Mathematics, Biological Sciences, Data Science and/or Microbiology.
Life beyond the program
After anywhere from three to five years, when you’ve completed the Wawatay program, you’ll be ready for the world. You’ll have the skills and track record of accomplishment to follow your dreams — a science career, graduate school, or even your own business.
In addition, you can also bring the gifts you gleaned from the Two-Eyed Seeing approach. Hopefully, you can share what you’ve learned and how you’ve learned and that will lead others to new, broadened perspectives.
More than all that, your experience as a Wawatay scholar clears the path for others who will follow in your footsteps. Your success may inspire people who never imagined themselves as scientists or those who did but didn’t feel confident enough to pursue it.