Supporting Indigenous success – National Indigenous Peoples Day



New $7,500 award supports science studies for Indigenous Masters students

WINNIPEG, MB – When Mark Abotossaway left his reserve community in Ontario to pursue post-secondary studies in Winnipeg, he was unprepared for the culture shock of moving to a place where everything felt different. Although he was a strong student at home, he also found himself floundering academically. He dropped out and got a job at the Greyhound bus depot.

“I was working across the street from The University of Winnipeg, so I tentatively took a class. That was the beginning of turning things around, because of the smaller class sizes and the support I received here,” he says. “Professor Jeff Martin encouraged me and gave me employment during the summer months and that built up my confidence. I even got to travel to international conferences.”

Abotossaway would go on to become a UWinnipeg physics graduate, pursue an aerospace engineering degree in Minnesota, and today is a structural analysis engineer with Boeing in Everett, Washington. He works on some of the world’s largest and most complex airplanes.

An Ojibwe from the Aundeck Omni Kaning First Nation located on Manitoulin Island, Abotossaway returns to UWinnipeg as a presenter at a High Performance Computing conference that takes place tomorrow (June 21), National Indigenous  Peoples Day.

To encourage and support talent like Abotossaway’s, today Dr. Annette Trimbee, President and Vice-Chancellor, UWinnipeg, announced a new $7,500 annual award.  Renewable for a second year, the award is specially geared to support an Indigenous Master’s degree student studying Applied Computer Science, Bioscience, or Technology and Public Policy at The University of Winnipeg.

“We need more talented people like Mark to pursue careers in science and technology,” said Trimbee. “These graduates help drive the research and innovation that are the future of our economies.” Trimbee noted it is encouraging that the number of Indigenous students graduating from science programs at UWinnipeg has tripled since 2013.

Abotossaway agrees that there is a strong need for diversity in today’s workplace. “Everyone brings a different strength and idea to the table and that is needed. If everyone thinks the same, you miss out on other ways of seeing and other concepts.” His advice to young Indigenous people considering science and technology-related fields of study is “get involved. Do hands on work with professional groups however you can.” Abotossaway says his career offers everything — flexibility, training and personal development opportunities.

“We would like to commend UWinnipeg for making dollars available to support Indigenous students who are pursuing post graduate studies in science,” said Wendell Wiebe, CEO of Manitoba Aerospace.   “In aerospace, it is all about the people, and Individuals, such as Mark Abotossaway, who have overcome challenges and achieved success.  They are to be celebrated and honoured as role models.” 

Community learning – pathways to success at UWinnipeg

The University of Winnipeg is deeply committed to diversity, community inclusion and creating pathways into our classrooms so that all learners may follow their dreams.  We consider this our greatest strength. Located in downtown Winnipeg, on Treaty One land, in the heart of the Métis homeland, we represent the diverse demographics of our province: 13 per cent of incoming students identify as Indigenous and almost one third of the student body identifies as from a racialized community. UWinnipeg has created numerous financial and other supports to remove barriers for non-traditional students.

With a goal of creating a university-bound identity in neighbourhood youth, we partner with
inner-city schools to reach children as young as Grade 4 by offering free summer day camps with activities related to Indigenous science, an Indigenous summer math camp, and a year-round “Let’s Talk Science” outreach program with school visits by dedicated professors (which just received a national award). Most recently, we hosted an after-school computer coding event at our community Wii Chiiwaakanak Learning Centre to introduce girls in Grades 6 to 8 to coding to inspire them to learn about computer programming.

Find out more at Indigenous UWinnipeg.

Note to journalists:

Mark Abotossaway will speak about his experience at the High Performance Computing conference on Thursday, June 21, 2018 at 9:10 am in Eckhardt Gramatté Hall, 3rd floor, Centennial Hall. One-on-one media interviews can be arranged for today, Wednesday, June 20.


Diane Poulin, Senior Communications Specialist, The University of Winnipeg
P: 204.988.7135, E:

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