An internship program developed at the University of Alberta to support and encourage Black youth in a career in science, technology, engineering and math is expanding.

The Experiential Learning in Innovation, Technology and Entrepreneurship (ELITE) Program for Black Youth will be offered through a partnership with Carleton University’s Faculty of Engineering and Design in Ottawa this summer.

The program was founded in 2021 by University of Alberta engineering professor André McDonald, to give participants tools and skills to address obstacles in pursuing careers in STEM.

“It allows us to provide Black youth with additional tools that can support their upward mobility and give them an opportunity to break down barriers or circumvent them in meaningful and productive ways,” said McDonald, who serves as the program’s director.

Thirty-eight interns were part of the first U of A cohort last summer.

The program pairs work experience with entrepreneurship training and wellness coaching for high school and university students aged 15 to 22. It provides a network of support and skills that extends beyond the technical knowledge needed to succeed in a STEM career.

ELITE interns can lean on others within their cohort, along with the program’s leadership team and the internship hosts who offer a professional network.

Growing a support network

The coaching and wellness aspect of the internship is unique. Wellness sessions cover topics like managing stress, building healthy relationships, and addressing microaggressions – indirect or subtle discrimination against members of a marginalized group.

The expansion to Carleton came after McDonald updated his former engineering colleague, Larry Kostiuk, on what he had planned. Kostiuk is now Dean of the Faculty of Engineering and Design at Carleton. He agreed to help launch an ELITE cohort at Carleton this summer.

“You’re around this cohort who understands you, and by having that network, the conversations go much deeper, much faster, and the connections are lifelong, and they’re so self-stabilizing,” said Kostiuk.

“That’s why it needed to be a community-based network.”

The plan is to grow to about 54 interns in Edmonton this year, plus up to 10 in Ottawa. McDonald’s dream is to eventually expand the program to post-secondary institutions across Canada, particularly in cities with a high population of Black youth who could benefit from it.

The ELITE program covers the cost of funding for interns, removing a barrier that might prevent some internship hosts from being able to take on a student. Internships run 8 to 16 weeks.

Read the full story here.

To speak with Dean Larry Kostiuk at Carleton University, please contact:

Steven Reid (he/him)
Media Relations Officer

To speak with André McDonald or an ELITE Program student from the University of Alberta, please contact:

Sarah Vernon
Communications Associate

Monday, February 28, 2022 in
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