Welcome to Aboriginal Access to Engineering, Queen's University

Karen Decontie

Karen Decontie

When Karen Decontie was in high school, a teacher told her she shouldn’t waste her time becoming an engineer.  It’s a good thing she didn’t listen, because Karen is now a Structural Engineer for the National Parks in Alberta and British Columbia!

Karen, an Algonquin from Kitigan Zibi, studied Civil Engineering at McGill University and also Civil Engineering (structures) at the University of Calgary.  As a structural engineer, she manages projects concerning buildings and bridges in her region.

Karen was involved in the upgrading of the bridges on one of the most popular trails in Banff National Park.  About 4000 people visit this site each day!  Karen had to inspect the bridges, plan and design repairs and manage the project over several years.

“The more engineers that we can have as First Nations the more decisions we can make on our own,” Karen says.  Engineering has allowed her to contribute to society through her work.  She gets a great sense of accomplishment making sure the structures she inspects and works on are safe for people to use.  Her work will be there for generations, because Canadian national parks are protected areas and there are strict rules to make sure those parks are preserved for generations.

Even though the hardest thing for Karen to do while she was studying was to leave her family, she says that “School gave me the opportunity to learn different thinking.  It helped me gain self-esteem and believe in myself as a person.”

Queen's University
Kingston, Ontario, K7L 3N6, Canada

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