Supporting the next generation of Indigenous scientists

In 2019, Susan Jensen began funding the Susan Jensen Indigenous Support Endowment. Now, the inaugural recipients share how that support has had an impact on their studies.

Andrew Lyle - 11 January 2021

In the Fall 2019 issue of Contours, we shared the story of professor emerita Susan Jensen ('70 BSc, '75 PhD), who has been a proud supporter of the Faculty of Science along with her husband for more than 20 years, helping to support students.

In 2019, Jensen began funding the Susan Jensen Indigenous Support Endowment, the first support endowment in the Faculty of Science for Indigenous students, supporting students via scholarships, bursaries, and fees for equipment and conferences. The inaugural recipients share how that support has had an impact on their studies:

The first recipient of the Susan Jensen Indigenous Support Scholarship is Samuel Savard, who recently graduated with a BSc. in neuroscience—with first-class standing. Savard shares that highlights from his time at UAlberta included working with and completing research projects in the labs of both Ted Allison, professor in the Department of Biological Sciences and David Eisenstat, professor in the Department of Oncology—and that he has been accepted to medical school for the fall.

“UAlberta always stood out to me for my studies, due to our huge selection of research to get involved with and undergraduate programs to support those interests,” says Savard. “I was thrilled to be recognized with this scholarship. It’s always encouraging to be supported by your university for your academic efforts in school and research.”

The second inaugural recipient of the scholarship is Ryley McClelland, who also graduated this spring, with a BSc. Honors in immunology and infection. McClelland will return to UAlberta in the fall to pursue graduate studies investigating respiratory viruses.

“I chose to study at UAlberta because it is close to home, the campus is beautiful, and the undergraduate research opportunities are fantastic.The supports for Indigenous students are great, too,” says McClelland. “When I found out that I had received the award, I felt very relieved and grateful–I didn’t receive any of the scholarships or funding that I had received in past years, so the Susan Jensen Award was a welcome surprise.”

A portion of the funding has also been allocated by Dean Matina Kalcounis-Rueppell to support tutoring in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) for Transition Year Program students through First Peoples’ House.

"I am incredibly excited and thankful that a portion of the Susan Jenson Indigenous Support Endowment is supporting this program,” says Suzanne Butler, associate director of the program. “Students in the Transition Year Program take a wide range of introductory science courses to fulfill requirements to transfer into programs that focus on health care, computing, psychology, agriculture, environment, and commerce in addition to general science programs. The ability to retain excellent student tutors in a wide range of disciplines to provide one on one and small group tutoring will have a significant and direct impact on the success and retention of Indigenous students at the University of Alberta and specifically on those pursuing STEM career paths. Susan Jensen's gift will support a new generation of Indigenous scholars and we are so grateful for her support."

As a professor emerita, Jensen continues her support of today's students with a yearly donation to the Faculty of Science, expressing her personal philosophy of mentorship, science, and paying it forward.

"There are very few cases where one makes a discovery and that's the end of the story. Science goes on and on and into other hands,” she says. “It's important that we remember we're building a foundation for the next generation."