Friday Letter 2016-11-03:
Our Native American Partnerships
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The University of Idaho is dedicated to serving all people. Our student body is more diverse than ever. This year's increase in enrollment includes more students who identify as Native American, reflecting on our strong partnership with regional tribes.
This fall saw a 9.8 percent increase in Native American students at UI. Contributing factors to that growth include our Tribal Excellence Scholarship, which extends the equivalent of in-state tuition to members of the 10 tribes with which UI has a memorandum of understanding (MOU) and to tribal college transfer students. That program emerged through consultation with our MOU tribes, who have representatives on campus this week for annual meetings. Our Native American Education Advisory Board and Native American Advisory Council discuss issues and opportunities for enhanced work in many facets of our partnership. I appreciate the chance to connect with UI’s tribal partners to keep building on success for students at UI, at the undergraduate and graduate levels, and to see where we can continue to meet needs in the K-12 system and in the community.
Today we dedicate flags from our 10 MOU partners in a common area in the Bruce M. Pitman Center. The new Tribal Nations Lounge is a place of welcome. Thanks to Yolanda Bisbee, chief diversity officer and executive director of Tribal Relations, for her efforts to create a more visible place that shares some of the area’s tribal history, art and culture with the UI community. In dedicating this space, we recognize UI’s location on Nez Perce ceded land and demonstrate our deeply held commitment to serving Native American students with educational opportunities. We will have pictures of the dedication ceremony later today – please visit my Facebook page.
Throughout November, UI is celebrating Native American Heritage month, just one of the many ways we honor our tribal members. Last month, I accepted an ASUI resolution to commemorate “Indigenous Peoples Day” at UI. I appreciated hearing from our guest speaker, Nez Perce elder Mike Penney, and appreciate the work put into commemorating this day by ASUI and our Native American Student Association. I hope Indigenous Peoples Day – like UI's annual Tutxinmepu Powwow each spring – becomes a widely celebrated part of UI's commitment to inclusion of Native American people, experiences and perspectives.
Outreach to Native American communities also informs our relationship with tribes. This summer we hosted high school students through our Helping Orient Indian Students and Teachers into STEM (HOIST) college-prep program, giving students a leg up toward college. This spring we won a National Science Foundation grant to bring more Native American students to the McCall Outdoor Science School and follow up in the classroom to create culturally relevant connections to STEM topics. Our College of Natural Resources, with help from University Distinguished Professor Lisette Waits, is leading the development of a Tribal Natural Resources Certificate. As a final example, our College of Education, led by associate professor Vanessa Anthony-Stevens, partners with the Nez Perce and Coeur d’Alene tribes to build reciprocal relationships and understanding between teachers and tribal communities through the Indigenous Knowledge for Effective Education Program project.
I have appreciated building relationships with our tribal partners. Those partnerships create a richer, more inclusive and more diverse UI for all students.Go Vandals!