Kandice Baptiste

Indigenous Students Recruitment and Retention Officer (History, BA)

Kandice Baptiste, Office of Indigenous Initiatives, Laurier

Kandice learned early on about the value of following her interests. As with many students, she began her university studies in a different subject than the one in which she graduated. Kandice started university in economics, which she had chosen because it was business-related and others had told her that it would lead to a ‘good job.’ She realized quickly that the subject area was not part of her strengths or her interests. After some reflection, she determined that history would be a better fit with her interests and abilities, which proved correct. She credits her program to helping her develop some of the key skills she now uses every day, such as written and verbal communication skills, research and critical thinking skills. Kandice graduated from Laurier in 2011 with a Bachelor of Arts in History.

She grew up in the Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory, and says she often felt isolated when she went to university, believing that she was the only Indigenous student at Laurier. Kandice played varsity basketball for four years until she had an injury which was the catalyst for her to begin the process of re-identifying herself and reconnecting with her Indigenous identity. In her fifth year at Laurier, she became involved with the Office of Indigenous Initiatives and started the Aboriginal Students Association (ASA). From that experience, she was hired as the first Indigenous student intern with the department and helped plan Indigenous Awareness Week an annual campus wide event. It was through this experience, she discovered that student services at the university could be a good career possibility for her.

She recounts reading the job posting of her current role, Indigenous students recruitment and retention officer when it was posted, and not even knowing what a recruiter did. However, she quickly recognized that she had many of the transferable skills that were being sought in the posting and applied. For the skills she did not have, such as public speaking skills, she persistently worked on developing that skill set (in spite of thinking she would be a terrible public speaker) and now she really enjoys being in front of audiences educating others.

Kandice is passionate about her people, Indigenous education and helping students find a meaningful connection with postsecondary education. In today’s labour market, having a postsecondary education is important. She loves that her work contributes to the improvement in Indigenous education rates, and subsequent employment rates.

One of the main things she enjoys about her role as the Indigenous students recruitment and retention officer, is that it involves a diversity of different tasks every day. As one part of her roles in recruitment, she works with the Aboriginal Post-Secondary Information Program (APSIP) that involves travelling with a group of Indigenous recruiters from other institutions to urban and reserve areas to connect with Indigenous students. Last year, they saw 3,500 students. The role of the Aboriginal recruiter is to help the prospective student figure out what school would be the best to attend based on their interests and make appropriate recommendations. The second part of her recruitment role is to partner with other Laurier recruiters and make presentations to high schools with high Indigenous student populations. She facilitates the Indigenous admission policy and plays a unique role in offering support to students who have applied and those who are going to apply to Laurier.

In addition to her recruiting efforts, she also conducts outreach programming, facilitates Indigenous Awareness presentations on- and off-campus, builds relationships with Indigenous communities to foster trust, and coordinates the marketing and public relations efforts of the Indigenous Student Centre. One of the many career accomplishments she has had includes the development of the SEEDS program, a first year retention program for Indigenous students. She recognizes the importance of starting to think about career development early.

When asked about related jobs in the Indigenous education field, they could include learning strategist, career counsellor, education officer at a band office, Native guidance counsellor, policy analyst and social work related roles specializing with Indigenous students. If you are interested in a career in this field, Kandice recommends engaging with the community to develop a genuine appreciation of the importance of community engagement, along with knowledge of the history of colonization. Some of her suggestions include, volunteering on reserves working with youth, a local friendship centre or Indigenous employment centre. She also recommends looking for opportunities to build public speaking skills, strong writing skills for a professional setting and event planning experience.

While recognizing that the skills learned inside the classroom are important, Kandice strongly advocates engaging in experiences outside the classroom as well. Experiences that are gained outside the classroom helps develop marketable skills and help you figure out what you want to do. Her career advice? Try new things out – though it may sometimes be hard, you can surprise yourself by pushing against your comfort zone and discovering strengths you never thought you could have!