Montana State University

MSU Provost awards $104,000 to projects that will boost Native American recruitment and retention

April 17, 2012

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Montana State University's Office of the Provost is distributing $104,000 to projects from across the university that will bolster recruiting efforts and retention initiatives for Native American students.

The projects, which range from expanding recruitment and orientation events to include families of Native American students to providing mentors in a variety of disciplines, were selected by a six-member committee. The submissions resulted from Provost Martha Potvin's December call for ideas to encourage recruitment and retention of Native American students, build stronger partnerships with Native communities and increase collaboration among campus-wide programs that support Native Americans.

Potvin said she was pleased with the quality of the proposals, which will expand in important ways on MSU's commitment to Native American students and communities.

"We were impressed with the range and breadth of these proposals and how each will contribute to the framework we have already established to encourage and promote the academic success of MSU's Native American students," Potvin said. "We're also pleased with the innovation and enthusiasm of those who submitted the proposals."

She said that over the coming years MSU will dedicate about $800,000 from additional revenue that is due to enrollment growth to programs that support Native American students. She said she anticipates future calls for similar proposals.

"As we are proud of the programs that we currently have in place that support Native American students, we are also pleased to implement these exciting ideas that will bolster our mission to become the university of choice for Native American students," Potvin said.

Potvin said that the funded programs will build upon recent successes that MSU has had with Native students. Last fall, MSU's Native American enrollment jumped by 45 students, or a nine percent increase, for a total of 545. In February, MSU's Designing Our Communities, a program aimed at recruiting and retaining Native American students for the College of Engineering, was honored by the College Board as a regional winner for the CollegeKeys Compact Innovation Awards.

Potvin said all of the proposals selected demonstrated a strong likelihood for immediate or eventual sustainability.

The successful proposals, the department and person submitting the idea, and the amount awarded are:

Rockin' the Rez and Native Pathways to Success: A proposal submitted by Walter Fleming, Native American Studies, to extend funding of two successful MSU outreach programs will receive $14,500 over two years, for a total of $29,000. Since Rockin' the Rez was started in 2007 to recruit students from Montana reservations and Indians living in urban communities, MSU's Native student enrollment has increased by 83 percent. The funds will also support "Native Pathways to Success," an orientation designed for Indian students.

Smart Pens, Smarter Students: Fleming also submitted a proposal that was awarded $ 3,000 to give Smart Pens, or pens that are able to record everything a student hears or writes, to 15 incoming Native students. The students will meet weekly for mentoring in note taking and studying skills and use of new technology.

STEM Mentoring Program: A group of collaborators, including Julian Collins of the College of Engineering's Designing Our Community, Heidi Sherick of the College of Engineering, Sheree Watson of American Indian Research Opportunities and Twila Old Coyote, of the MSU College of Nursing's Caring for Our Own Program, received $15,000 to launch a program that will mentor Native upperclassmen majoring in science, technology, engineering and mathematics fields.

Recruitment and Retention in Ecology, Environmental Sciences, Engineering: Anne Camper, associate dean of the College of Engineering, submitted a proposal that received $17,000 for a collaborative program that will increase Native American student recruitment and retention in ecology, environmental science, engineering and other science disciplines by strengthening relationships among science faculty, Native undergraduate and graduate students, Montana tribal colleges and community research partners.

Creating a Human Services Career Pathway: Holly Hunts, professor of health and human development, submitted a proposal that was funded for $17,000 to establish a program that will support Native students and honor Native traditions as the students transition from high school to a two-year degree in human services at a Montana tribal college and then to a degree in family and consumer sciences at MSU. After graduation, the students will be prepared for careers in social work, counseling or financial planning.

Expanding Horizons: A Native American Mentorship Program: Phenocia Bauerle of MSU's Diversity Awareness Office and Elizabeth Greenfield of MSU's Family and Graduate Housing, submitted a proposal that was funded for $10,000 to establish a mentoring program that will focus on enhancing the life skills of Native students while developing their ability to navigate the MSU campus and resources, while also connecting them with faculty and staff across campus

Connecting Native Families and Communities: Heather Wofford, the minority admissions representative from the MSU Office of Admission, Erika Swanson, the parent and family coordinator in the Dean of Students office and Rita Sand, student adviser in Native American Studies, submitted a proposal that was funded for $13,000. It proposes a three-part plan that will provide new materials, renewed outreach, encouragement of family during orientation and supplemental programs that will increase Native American recruitment yield and student retention.

Members of the committee that selected the successful proposals were: Susan Dana (chair), interim dean of the MSU College of Business; Matt Caires, Dean of Students; Brand Foster, director of American Indian/Minority Achievement for the Montana Office of the Commissioner of Higher Education; Colleen Moore, head of the MSU Department of Psychology; Bill Yellowtail, director of Native American Partnerships program based at MSU; and Greg Young, interim director of the MSU School of Music.

Martha Potvin (406) 994-4371, mpotvin@montana.edu