The Foundation was founded in 2008 by Ron Woznow and Susan O’Brien and was originally named the Family Food Research Foundation. Its goal was to increase the number of First Nations, Métis and Inuit students graduating from post-secondary science programs. The first program was started in 2009 and was called the “Be a Food Researcher for a Week” which provided an opportunity for students to spend a week on campus learning about food research and the support that was available to them if they did post-secondary studies.
In 2010, Dr. Emoke Szathmary, the past president of the University of Manitoba, introduced Ron to Dr. Verna Kirkness who was widely regarded as the leading Indigenous educator in Canada. She was supportive of foundation’s goal and agreed to lend her name to the foundation which was renamed the Verna J. Kirkness Education Foundation.
From 2012-2014, the Program was offered at the University of Manitoba. In 2015, a Program was added at the University of Saskatchewan and in 2016 at the University of British Columbia. In 2018, the Program expanded to the University of Calgary, First Nations University of Canada and the University of Ottawa. In 2019, Programs were added at the University of Victoria and University of Alberta bringing the number of programs to 8. 130 students from across Canada attended the 2019 Programs and were mentored by 53 Professors and their research associates.
Increasing the number of First Nations, Métis and Inuit students graduating from science and engineering programs in Canada