Montana State University
MSU STRATEGIC INVESTMENT PROPOSAL FOR INSTITUTIONAL PRIORITIES
PROPOSAL OVERVIEW
TitleTransitioning Tribal College Students into MSU STEM Degree Programs Request Date2012-11-29
DepartmentCollege of Engineering, College of Letters and Sciences Emailanne_c@erc.montana.edu
RequestorAnne Camper/Paula Lutz Phone994-5782
INSTITUTIONAL BENEFIT
Campuses Bozeman Billings Havre Great Falls FSTS Extension MAES
Cross Depts Cell Biology and Neuroscience, Ecology, Animal and Range Science, Land Resources and Environmental Sciences, Health and Human Development,Civil Engineering, Chemistry and Biochemistry,Mathematical Science
TIMEFRAME
Proposed Dates Start: March 2013 End: February 2015
PROPOSAL SUMMARY
This pilot project will create processes and procedures to overcome barriers encountered by Montanaís tribal college students transferring into bachelorís degree programs at MSU. It builds on established connections between MSU and the seven tribal collegeís STEM faculty to create clear transfer/articulation agreements for six STEM degree programs. Curriculum alignment will be incorporated into DegreeWorks. The project will enhance tribal college transfer student recruitment and retention by connecting students with a knowledgeable MSU mentor/advisor. Best practices needed for expansion to all degree programs at MSU will be identified.
STRATEGIC ALIGNMENT
This proposal most directly targets Objective A.2: Diversify the student body via Metric A.2.1: By 2019, the number of Native American students enrolled will increase to 800 (45 percent increase). Closely related is Objective A.1: Educate more students while maintaining the quality of programs, Metric A.1.2: By 2019, the number of new transfer enrollments will increase 15 percent to approximately 1,100.
COST AND REQUIREMENTS
Funding Type: One-Time Only Funding Base (3-yr Recurring) Funding
  FY13 FY14 FY15 Base ($) OTO Startup ($)   FTE;
Salaries 78875  78875           
Benefits 26344  26344           
Materials & Supplies              
Travel 4000  4000           
Contracted Services              
Capital              
Other Operations 600  600           
TOTAL 109819  109819     
Please comment, if necessary, regarding cost and requirements.

The annual budgets are upper estimates.  Since individual faculty have not been identified (although there are likely candidates as per information in the proposal description) an estimate of $8000/mo per faculty was used.  One month’s salary for Julian Collins, who oversees AIRO/DOC was included.  Julian will be responsible for coordinating all of the travel and other communications through the Burns Center.  Anne Camper and Paula Lutz were included at 0.5 mo/year to coordinate the efforts with tribal college faculty and administration, oversee progress, and interface with MSU’s faculty and administration.   Anne Camper is on a 0.8 administrative /0.2 faculty appointment and is responsible for generating a portion of her own summer salary.  In her faculty appointment Paula Lutz is also responsible for her own summer salary.  Travel costs are based on one car with four people traveling to each of the seven tribal colleges per year, plus one night’s stay and per diem for each person.   Additional costs are to cover a two hour telecommunications session through the Burns Center with each tribal college per year, plus one additional call.

PROPOSAL SCOPE
Describe the Proposal

“I didn’t really know about the options after obtaining my Associate’s; and when I thought about going to MSU I didn’t know how my credits were going to work out.  It would’ve been really helpful to know exactly how my credits would transfer…It was really frustrating.” – quote from tribal college transfer student Kendra Teague with permission to use.

The above quote, obtained this fall from a student who attended our American Indian Research Opportunities (AIRO) Advisory Board meeting is indicative of barriers encountered by students who wish to transfer from Montana’s tribal colleges to MSU.  If students can begin their careers at their tribal colleges with a roadmap and encouragement to pursue a bachelor’s degree at MSU they are more likely to take this path.   Students also need to identify and connect with an advisor at MSU who can help them understand the steps they need to take to set their sights on a bachelor’s degree. 

The concept for this proposal addresses this and other student concerns and has been taking form for at least two years.   As part of a Native American Recruitment proposal funded by the Office of the Provost, we conducted research to determine issues that impact the recruitment and retention of Native students at MSU.  Specific issues associated with transfers were initially identified at the AIRO Advisory Board meeting in May 2012 and further investigated at a second board meeting this fall.  Additional conversations have been held with Native American MSU students who had transferred from tribal colleges, tribal college faculty and staff, tribal college administrators, and MSU staff and administrators (Ronda Russell, Heather Wofford, Jim Rimpau, Bill Yellowtail, Scott Zander).  Also included were faculty from several MSU departments who have been dedicated supporters of Native students.   Although many issues associated with improving the recruitment and retention of Native American students at MSU were identified, addressing transfer issues emerged as  the most direct and cost effective method for improving MSU’s ability to recruit qualified Native American students.   A key component is the understanding that interactions with Native students are based on personal relationships, and this proposal is built on a foundation of improving relationships and communication between tribal college students, tribal college faculty, and MSU faculty. 

Data on Native American student enrollments and transfers at MSU are included in Table 1.  With the intent of increasing enrollments to 800 by 2019 (Strategic Plan Metric A.2.1), a considerable amount of work needs to be done.  Numbers of incoming transfer students have been relatively flat for the past seven years, suggesting that efforts to date have not been particularly effective in increasing yield.  This is further supported by data in Table 2.  Transfers from Montana tribal colleges have consistently ranged between 15 and 19 students since 2009.  Along with anecdotal information from tribal college administrators stating that their enrollments are down by 50% this year (most likely due to changes in the Pell Grant criteria), these numbers point to a significant challenge in meeting the strategic plan enrollment goals. 

To systematically address the issues associated with transferring from tribal colleges, a decision was made to begin with a pilot project housed in the AIRO/DOC program and focused on students in the STEM disciplines.   Because there is no central point on the MSU campus for coordinating issues associated with Native American student initiatives, we have chosen to locate this project under the umbrella of the American Indian Research Opportunities/ Designing our Community program.   The AIRO program has been at MSU for over 30 years, promoting STEM research to Native American and other underrepresented minority communities.  AIRO has worked with the research faculty from the College of Engineering, College of Letters & Sciences, College of Agriculture, and the College of Nursing to bring diverse research experiences to high school students, tribal college students, and full-time MSU undergraduates in the STEM disciplines. The AIRO program has also worked to establish connections with Montana’s seven tribal colleges by including science faculty from each of the tribal colleges on its Advisory Board.  Meeting twice a year, the AIRO Advisory Board works to recruit transfer students from the tribal colleges, and to strengthen the communication and connection between MSU and the tribal colleges to help students transition into MSU.  AIRO has been funded by the National Institutes of Health, National Science Foundation, and the Department of Education, and the Howard Hughes Medical Institution to achieve these goals and build tribal college connections.   Recently AIRO and DOC (focused primarily on Native students in engineering) were combined into one program overseen by Julian Collins.  Camper and Lutz are the principle investigators on several large NIH funded programs under AIRO, and Camper serves on the administrative core of the INBRE grant that has made substantial contributions to growing STEM programs on the tribal college campuses. 

This decision to focus on STEM disciplines was made for several reasons:  (1) AIRO’s focus is on STEM disciplines and nearly all AIRO students at MSU are tribal college transfer students, (2) there is infrastructure and expertise already in place through the AIRO office  to coordinate the project; (3) tribal and MSU faculty who have become acquainted with each other through AIRO, INBRE and the NIH Bridges grant are in the STEM disciplines, (5) MSU has a competitive advantage in recruiting tribal college STEM graduates due to the recognized strength of our STEM programs,  and (6) a focus on STEM disciplines is a reasonable first step for a pilot program. 

Based on the interests and enrollments of AIRO students and those of other Native students in STEM degree programs, departments suggested for initial involvement include six MSU degree programs in Cell Biology and Neuroscience, Ecology, Animal and Range Science, Land Resources and Environmental Sciences, Health and Human Development, and Civil Engineering.  Chemistry and Biochemistry and Mathematical Science involvement is also crucial; tribal college students should know if the math and chemistry courses they take at the tribal colleges will transfer as components of these six degree programs.  Upon successful completion of this pilot project, the lessons learned can be adapted to other degree programs across campus contingent upon availability of funding

The project is focused on these challenges:

  1. Native students and tribal college faculty do not fully understand how the matriculation process at MSU works, and they do not know who to contact for answers.
  2. Adequate preparation in math and chemistry in particular is a challenge for Native STEM students. 
  3. Current levels of communication between tribal college students/ faculty, and MSU advisors/faculty are not sufficient in depth or breadth.  Improvements are necessary so students can optimize their associate’s degree program to satisfy prerequisites and core class requirements to streamline completion of degrees at MSU. 
  4. Financial considerations are paramount for tribal college transfer students.  If the path to degree completion and associated costs are not clear, students will not enroll at MSU.   
  5. Students need immediate and direct contact with an MSU faculty member in their discipline who can consult with them and their tribal college advisors,  act as their MSU liaison and encourage them to enroll at MSU.
  6. Tightening of Pell Grant requirements makes seamless transfer critically important for tribal college transfer students.

The best strategy to addressing these challenges is by direct faculty-to-faculty links (tribal college to MSU).  Fortunately, MSU has a group of engaged and interested faculty with a history of working with Native students through AIRO in the disciplines named above.  Many of these faculty have expressed an interest in being involved with this project.  There are key STEM faculty at the tribal colleges who have been engaged through AIRO, INBRE and the NIH Bridges grant willing to work with MSU faculty to solve these problems.  The project aims build on these collaborations and are focused on the responsibilities of the liaison MSU faculty: 

  1. Form partnerships with key STEM faculty at Montana’s tribal colleges through face-to-face visits and distance-based approaches. 
  2. Review the syllabi of tribal college courses and provide suggestions for modification so that tribal college students are better prepared to transfer to MSU.  This is especially critical for math and chemistry courses.
  3. Examine the curricula for degrees at tribal colleges and MSU and develop transfer agreements, working through their tribal college STEM counterparts to optimize the transfer of courses for students who enter MSU.
  4. Input data into DegreeWorks (using the information gathered from Aims 2 and 3).
  5. Provide demonstrations of the DegreeWorks platform for tribal college faculty so they can determine the best plan(s) for advising students interested in transferring to MSU.
  6. Maintain relationships between MSU faculty and tribal college faculty advisors (who will assist in connecting with students) so Native students arriving at MSU are already acquainted with a familiar face who can help them navigate the MSU system. 
  7. Communicate with tribal college faculty about any changes in curricula and update transfer agreements and DegreeWorks as necessary.

This proposal seeks funding for one month salary for eight faculty (from six STEM degree programs, also faculty from math and chemistry)for two years; these faculty will be responsible accomplishing the above aims.  Salary is sought because successful completion of the outlined aims exceeds what can be expected as part of faculty’s service load.  Timing for the use of this month of salary will be determined by the faculty and department head, and could be for release time or summer salary.  Other requested resources would cover the work of a logistics coordinator (Julian Collins, Director of AIRO/DOC), overall project management and direction (Camper and Lutz), travel, and communications costs.

The project includes the following steps.  All aspects of the project would be led by Camper and Lutz.

  1. Heads of the eight MSU departments listed above would identify interested faculty and agree upon release time or summer salary.  Faculty would be given guidance by their department head and/or curriculum committee on how to represent their respective departments in discussions with tribal college faculty in syllabi review and the brokering of transfer agreements (how tribal college courses will apply toward an MSU degree--directly, as substitutions, or as core courses).
  2. MSU faculty liaisons would receive diversity training from MSU’s Diversity Office.
  3. Training in articulation agreements and use of DegreeWorks would take place as needed.
  4. The AIRO office (Collins) would coordinate travel to the tribal colleges and facilitate face-to-face meetings with tribal college STEM faculty.  The project team (Collins, Camper, Lutz) would also hold monthly meetings of the MSU faculty liaisons to track progress, identify roadblocks, and make connections with important university resources as needed. 
  5. The faculty liaisons will work with tribal college STEM faculty to develop transfer agreements that are acceptable to MSU and tribal college administration.
  6. The faculty liaisons will determine methods to ensure that the agreements are updated when necessary.
  7. The faculty liaisons will create a support network in their MSU department so that incoming Native American students are adequately advised, particularly during their first year at MSU.

TABLE 1.  MSU Undergraduate American Indian/Alaska Native Enrollment by College, Fall 2012 (http://www.montana.edu/opa/nativeamerican/nativeenrollment.html)

Enrollment by College

American Indian/Alaska Native

All UG Students

% of All UG Students who are American Indian

% of UG American Indians in College

College of Agriculture

39

859

.3%

4.5%

College of Arts & Architecture

39

1235

.3%

3.2%

College of Business

37

1151

.3%

3.2%

College of Education, Health and Human Development

78

1437

.6%

5.4%

College of Engineering

66

2581

.5%

2.6%

College of Letters & Science

132

3066

1%

4.3%

College of Nursing

58

884

.5%

6.6%

Gallatin College Programs

5

228

0%

2.2%

University College

63

1331

.5%

4.7%

MSU total

517

12,772

4%

4%

 


Incoming Native American Transfers
(included in above totals)

2001

2002

2003

2004

2005

2006

2007

2008

2009

2010

2011

2012

Freshman

15

16

17

13

23

17

5

14

10

15

10

10

Sophomore

4

1

7

7

8

7

8

2

7

11

11

5

Junior

5

2

4

7

9

13

10

10

16

13

15

16

Senior

0

0

0

7

3

10

4

23

6

8

12

7

Postbaccalaureate

2

2

1

0

1

0

1

4

2

7

5

3

     Total Incoming Transfers

26

21

29

34

44

47

28

53

41

54

53

41

Note: Students may identify as more than one race or ethnicity. For this report, students who identify as American Indian/Alaska Native are included whether or not they identify with another race or ethnicity as well.

Table 2.  Tribal college transfer student numbers

Tribal Colleges

Fall 2009

Fall 2010

Fall 2011

Fall 2012

Aaniiih Nakoda College*

     

1

Blackfeet Community College

7

6

1

7

Chief Dull Knife College

2

   

1

Fort Belknap College

1

2

3

 

Fort Peck College

 

2

3

4

Little Big Horn College

6

3

6

3

Salish Kootenai College

3

3

2

 

Stone Child College

 

1

 

1

 

     

 

Tribal Subtotal

19

17

15

17

*Formerly Fort Belknap College

 
Describe the broader impacts and benefits of this proposal

At the highest level, this project will foster stronger relationships and an increased level of trust between MSU and Montana’s seven tribal colleges.  There is the potential to greatly enhance MSU’s presence on Montana’s tribal college campuses by creating culturally relevant personal connections between faculty at both institutions.  These personal connections will also extend to students, providing a needed sense of community and communication with prospective advisors at MSU.  Faculty-to-faculty discussions will increase awareness of the processes and procedures at both institutions and create opportunities for improving student success.   It is also probable that faculty at tribal colleges will feel more comfortable in guiding their promising students towards attending MSU if they can point them to a known, dedicated advisor.  We envision that an outcome of this project is that tribal college STEM majors will see a clear, navigable and supported pathway from entrance at the tribal college to completion of their degree at MSU.  It is also probable that as transfer student numbers increase, there will be a ‘cohort’ of transfers from each tribal college who can mentor the next group of incoming students.  Having colleagues who understand the transition from the tribal college to MSU can only increase the comfort level of the new students. 

Tangible benefits include:  (1) the creation of articulation agreements that will decrease time to degree completion for transferring tribal college students and optimize use of their Pell Grants, (2) the review of syllabi in important math and chemistry courses and other relevant STEM courses at the tribal colleges to give guidance to the tribal college faculty on how course content translates to the acceptability of credits in specific degree programs.  The intent is to optimize the student’s chances for transferability of courses so there is less need for them to retake these classes at MSU, (3) the collection and input of data needed to adapt DegreeWorks for advising tribal college transfer students, (4) an increase in students transferring from tribal colleges to MSU, (5) the establishment of a process model for implementation for other departments/degrees, and (6) increased retention and graduation of Native American students from MSU with STEM degrees.

 
ADDITIONAL INFORMATION
Implementation Plan

March 2013 (start date): (1) Identify MSU faculty to be funded by the program by working with department heads and faculty who have already expressed interest in the project.  Notify tribal college faculty and administrations of funding.  Identify key tribal college faculty who will be involved in the program.  Identify am MSU tribal college transfer student to participate in an advisory capacity. (2)  Set meeting for MSU faculty and key tribal college faculty to discuss project goals.  (3) Schedule diversity training for MSU faculty.   (4) Determine monthly meeting schedule.  (5)  Request syllabi and degree program curricula from tribal college faculty. 

April 2013:  (1) Through the AIRO office, begin scheduling travel to tribal colleges for MSU faculty.  It is desirable for faculty to have an in-person visit with half of the colleges each year, with the remaining visits the second year.  Travel will be coordinated to coincide with other planned AIRO, Bridges or MSU travel to reduce costs and optimize interactions with the tribal college faculty. (2) Schedule connections through the Burns Center for situations where face to face travel is not feasible 

Summer 2013:  Initiate travel and distance communications between tribal college and MSU faculty.  Commence work on articulation agreements.  Initiate plans to mentor tribal college students entering MSU during fall semester. 

August 2013:  Meet to review progress towards review of course syllabi (all STEM courses with emphasis on math and chemistry) and transfer agreements, determine steps needed to complete agreements, review plans to mentor incoming tribal college students.  

Fall semester 2013:  Continue development of articulation agreements, add information to DegreeWorks.  Demonstrations of DegreeWorks to tribal faculty will take place.  Implement mentoring/advising of incoming tribal college transfer students.  MSU faculty will be involved with the fall AIRO advisory board meeting.

End of year one:  Have articulation agreements brokered between MSU for the six degree granting departments at MSU and have course content information clarified for math and chemistry.   DeegreeWorks will be updated with appropriate information.  Collect data for assessment.

February 2014:  Review processes and procedures from year one, determine mechanisms for improvement.  Determine mechanisms for continuing communication between tribal college and MSU faculty.  Schedule s meeting between all tribal college and MSU faculty involved in the project to review progress and assess efficacy of the program.  Survey tribal college transfer students about their experiences after arriving at MSU.

March- May 2014:  Repeat travel arrangements as per April 2013. Include meetings with prospective tribal college transfer students (freshmen through nearing completion of associate’s degree) to discuss articulation agreements and provide assessment on transfer credits using DegreeWorks.

Summer 2014:  Complete travel or distance communication as necessary.  Refine processes for mentoring tribal college students before and after arriving at MSU.  Determine mechanisms for continued communications between the tribal colleges and MSU to keep articulation/transfer agreements current.  Work with incoming tribal college transfer students to facilitate their arrival at MSU.

Fall semester 2014:  Expand the project to explore mechanisms for encouraging tribal college students to attend MSU through conversations with prospective transfer students, current MSU students from the tribal colleges, and tribal college faculty and the Office of Admissions.   Collect project assessment information from MSU, the tribal college faculty/administration, and transfer students.  Prepare report on lessons learned. 

January-February 2015:  Complete report, schedule meetings to discuss outcomes with appropriate groups at MSU and the tribal colleges.

 
Assessment Plan

Assessment will be based on determining the efficacy of the established processes.    Data will be collected on the number of incoming transfer students to determine any improvements, but these numbers may not change significantly within the two years of this project.  Long term, the intent is to increase STEM transfer student numbers from 15-19 to 25-30.

By the end of the second year the following assessments will be made for each of the aims:

  1. Form partnerships with key STEM faculty at Montana’s tribal colleges through face-to-face visits and distance-based approaches.   At the end of the second year, MSU faculty will have met with STEM faculty at all of the tribal colleges through one of the two mechanisms.
  2. Review the syllabi of tribal college courses and provide suggestions for modification so that tribal college students are better prepared to transfer to MSU.  This is especially critical for math and chemistry courses but also applies to all 100 and 200 level STEM courses appropriate to the six degree programs.  All lower level math, chemistry and other relevant STEM courses at the tribal colleges with the potential to transfer to MSU will be reviewed and information provided.  Tribal colleges will be given suggestions and guidance on changes they could make to their courses to meet MSU’s requirements for transfer or substitution into the six departmental degree programs.
  3. Examine the curricula for degrees at tribal colleges and MSU and develop transfer agreements, working through their tribal college STEM counterparts to optimize the transfer of courses for students who enter MSU.   Transfer agreements will be created for all six degree programs. 
  4. Input data into DegreeWorks (using the information gathered from Aims 2 and 3). Examples for hypothetical students transferring from each tribal college into MSU’s six degree programs will be created.  
  5. Provide demonstrations of the DegreeWorks platform for tribal college faculty so they can determine the best plan(s) for advising students interested in transferring to MSU.  The program will be demonstrated twice at each tribal college, once at the end of the first year and then during the second year after improvements have been made.  If feasible, tribal college faculty will be given access to DegreeWorks to use at their convenience for advising potential transfer students. 
  6. Maintain relationships with tribal college faculty so Native students arriving at MSU are already acquainted with a familiar face who can help them navigate the MSU system.  Each department will establish a process for mentoring and advising incoming transfer students.
  7. Communicate with tribal faculty about any changes in curricula and update transfer agreements and DegreeWorks as necessary.  Processes for maintaining communications will be established and documented.
 
If assessed objectives are not met in the timeframe outlined what is the plan to sunset this proposal?

The proposed pilot project is for two years.  At the end of this time, upon thorough review and discussions with the tribal colleges, the University can decide if it is worthwhile to continue funding for these departments/degree programs at the same level or at a lower maintenance baseline.  Successful completion may lead to expansion of the program to other departments using the same or revised model, after review of the efficacy of various elements in the pilot program. 

 
SIGNATURES
Dean/Director: Brett Gunnink (bgunnink@ce.montana.edu)
Executive/VP: Martha Potvin (mpotvin@montana.edu)