Finding your way With Blankstein Momentum
How this Indigenous Student Centre program helps Indigenous students excel.
The Blankstein Momentum Program is a source of support to returning Indigenous students looking to improve their academic performance and expand their social networks. The program is now accepting applications for the 2022-2023 academic year.
The program is designed with a holistic approach, blending cultural and spiritual care with learning workshops, tutoring and community activities. The Blankstein Momentum Program has a maximum intake of 30 students and usually sees returning students every year. The students represent various Indigenous communities and come from varying programs and faculties, including a wide range of GPAs and those pursuing a second degree.
“It opened my sense of community on campus”
For some students, university can feel lonely. Facing these challenges alone can take a toll on morale and even your academic records. Raven Morrisseau was one of these students and Blankstein Momentum changed her experience completely.
Raven is Cree and Métis with family ties to Misipawistik Cree Nation, but grew up in Winnipeg, Treaty 1 territory. Currently in the third year of her Bachelor of Arts degree majoring in political studies and minoring in Indigenous studies, Raven was introduced to the Blankstein Momentum Program in her second year through an advisor at the Indigenous Student Centre.
“I knew I needed better structure to help me out in my degree because I felt very out of touch with university and didn’t know what I was doing. If I had this and understood the program and its requirements, it would help me to be able to do it on my own eventually and not feel so alone like I did in my first year. I wanted a place to go and have fun and learn how to be a student. It opened my sense of community on campus that I didn’t have in my first year. You can do it alone and not like your time here, or you can find your community and have fun for the rest of your degree.”
Raven received one of the tuition prizes after completing her first year in the program.
“It was nice to be recognized for the hard work I did and it was like, here’s something that can help you further.”
The program includes a welcome orientation, meetings with Academic Learning Centre specialists and set appointments with student advisors throughout the year to ensure students stay on track. The program also includes workshops that focus on coping skills to combat academic anxiety, such as time management courses, test-taking strategies and spiritual care.
Continuing opportunities in the Indigenous Student Centre
Raven then joined the Indigenous Circle of Empowerment (ICE), which introduced Raven to a greater community on and off campus. She learned about opportunities outside of UM and met other leaders in the Indigenous community. She then joined Neechiwaken and became a mentor. “I think it was the best thing for me to meet a first-year student so they didn’t go through what I went through. I got to tell them everything I know so that (even though Blankstein is a great program) they don’t have to go to that right away, they can start off on the right foot and know that the program is there for them if they need it. I’m looking forward to doing it again this year because I had a really good experience with my mentee.”
“I ended up making it onto the Dean’s honour list two terms in a row. Coming from barely passing to wanting to quit school to making it onto the Dean’s honour list, I’m not just skimming by, I’m excelling!”
When asked about other programs and opportunities she’s taken part of at the Indigenous Student Centre, Raven said “I really liked the reading workshops with Valdine. Those were really good because reading in university is hard compared to reading for pleasure. You have to focus on the details of it and picking out the important parts. Now when I read something, I know how to read it and I can pick out information that is relevant.”
Raven’s goal is to get into the Faculty of Law in the Fall of 2023. She will be writing the LSAT at the end of August and hopes to pursue a career in family law. “Thankfully the skills I learned through Blankstein Momentum is helping me prepare to write the LSATs because I know how to structure my studying for that.”
The Blankstein Momentum Program is currently accepting applications for the 2022-2023 academic year. Those looking for supports to enhance their university experience are encouraged to make an appointment with an Indigenous Student Centre student advisor, check out the Indigenous events calendar for a list of workshops and/or consider applying for the Neechiwaken Indigenous Peer Mentor Program (applications opening soon).
The program is supported by University of Manitoba alumna Dr. Marjorie B. Blankstein [C.M., O.M.; BA (Man.); MSW (Minnesota); LLD (Man.)].