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MSU-Tribal College Collaborations Flourish

Life, whether we acknowledge it or not, is interdependent, Henrietta Mann tells her students at Montana State University-Bozeman.

"We know what we breathe out, the trees take in. What the trees breathe out, we as people take in," says the Endowed Chair in Native American Studies.

In the same way, MSU contributes to the well-being of Montana's tribal colleges, and the tribal colleges enrich the university, say MSU officials and directors of its Native American programs. MSU has approximately 30 Native American programs, and many of those link MSU and Montana's tribal colleges. Leaders say they not only help the institutions fulfill their land grant missions, but they offer cultural and financial benefits to all.

"I think it's great," MSU President Geoffrey Gamble commented. "In fact, I would like to see more interactions and partnerships."

Sara Young said, "This collaboration has actually made it a reality to be able to provide outreach to the whole state and not leave out a very large segment of our state."

Young is director of the American Indian Research Opportunities (AIRO) program at MSU and a Crow Indian who commutes to Bozeman from her home at Lame Deer.

Wayne Stein added, "It's good for us that we are actually fulfilling our mission, our purpose for being here."

Stein is director of Native American Studies at MSU. He is enrolled as a Turtle Mountain Chippewa in North Dakota and grew up on the Fort Peck Indian Reservation in Montana.

Some of the primary programs that weave MSU-Bozeman and Montana's tribal colleges together are:

American Indian Research Opportunities (AIRO)

AIRO is a formal consortium that was started to address the serious under-representation of American Indians in biomedical/health sciences. It has since expanded to increase their opportunities in all areas of science, mathematics, engineering and technology. AIRO is based at MSU-Bozeman and has collaborated with Montana's seven tribal colleges for about 20 years. AIRO is the umbrella organization for several minority programs administered by MSU. Each tribal college has two representatives on its advisory board.

Biomedical Research Infrastructure Network (BRIN)

MSU-Bozeman, all the tribal colleges in Montana and other units of the university system are involved in BRIN, a network to enhance biomedical research infrastructure in the state. Students are able to participate in undergraduate research on any of the participating campuses. Mini-grants are available to tribal college science faculty.

Bridges to Baccalaureate

Ten Native American undergraduates from Fort Peck Community College, Little Big Horn College and Fort Belknap College are eligible to do research and take a couple of courses at MSU-Bozeman through the Bridges to Baccalaureate program. Each participating campus has a science faculty member who is site coordinator for the program. Bridges to Baccalaureate pairs MSU faculty and Native American undergraduates who are involved in research through the Initiative for Minority Student Development (IMSD) program with the tribal college students participating in the Bridges program.

Caring for Our Own (CO-OP)


Map shows location of Montana tribal colleges.
Caring for Our Own is a program to develop a support network for Native American students who want to earn a baccalaureate degree in nursing. Partners in the effort are MSU, Native American nurses, tribal college administrators, Indian Health Services officials and other tribal leaders. Tribal college participants during the first three years of the program were Little Big Horn College, Chief Dull Knife College and Blackfeet Community College. If the program is approved past June 2002, Fort Belknap College, Stone Child College and Fort Peck Community College will be involved. Members of the advisory committee come from each of the tribal colleges, nurses and administrators from reservation clinics/hospitals/nursing homes, tribal health departments and counselors from reservation schools.

Center for Learning and Teaching in the West (CLT West)


Char Old Bull of Hardin Middle School stretches some slime she made during the American Indian Recruitment into Careers in Health (ARCH) summer institute. The institute was held on the MSU-Bozeman campus.
The CLT West is one of seven Centers for Learning and Teaching established by the National Science Foundation to address a regional and national shortage of qualified science and math teachers at all levels. Housed at MSU-Boze-man, the CLT West has several higher education partners including Fort Belknap Community College. One of its goals is to provide professional development to science and math teachers in low-income and minority rural schools. It is investigating distance learning for graduate education programs and wants to enhance research infrastructure.

Civic Investment in Montana (CIM)


This community technology center at Chief Dull Knife College will help the Northern Cheyenne people record and maintain their culture. Money from the U.S. Department of Commerce helped four Montana Indian reservations obtain digital equipment for cultural and language preservation.
"Making a Civic Investment in Montana (CIM)" is a partnership involving the Office for Community Involvement at MSU, the Burns Telecommunications Center at MSU and the tribal colleges around Montana. The community involvement office works with tribal college faculty members, showing them how to incorporate elements of community service into their classes. The students then go out into the community to see if classroom theories work in the real world. In one such project, students at Little Big Horn College studied biodiversity for a semester, then organized an outdoor workshop for local school children.

Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR)

Montana is involved in a National Science Foundation (NSF) program to help its researchers become more competitive in the grant application process. Called the Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR), the program has a minorities outreach component to increase its scientific interaction with tribal colleges. Program administrators have traveled around Montana identifying existing links with the tribal colleges and looking for ways to strengthen those partnerships or create new ones. Burns Telecommunications Center staff have traveled to the colleges to assess their information technology needs. One goal of the program is to increase the number of minorities involved in research at MSU and the University of Montana via new faculty and opportunities for graduates and undergraduates. EPSCoR funds have been used in many ways, including bringing Native American high school students to MSU for summer research experiences.

Extension Service

Like MSU-Bozeman, every tribal college in Montana is a land grant institution. As such, each college has a representative of the MSU Extension Service on campus. This person also has affiliate faculty status at MSU. About two years ago, money became available for research at the tribal colleges. One resulting collaboration involved the Fort Peck Indian Reservation and MSU's Eastern Agricultural Research Center in research relating to potato production. Another partnership joined Blackfeet Community College, the Blackfeet tribe and MSU in a project to restore native plants to disturbed areas throughout the reservation and Glacier National Park.

Initiative for Minority Student Development (IMSD)

The IMSD, administered by AIRO, is aimed at Native American undergraduates who are interested in biomedical/health science careers. Students participate in academic enhancement activities and research projects throughout the year and are expected to present their findings at a scientific meeting. IMSD also supports tribal college faculty who want to increase their involvement in scientific research. The initiative provides funding so tribal faculty members can attend professional conferences and take graduate courses. For the past four years, IMSD has offered a seminar on Native American health every semester to MSU students in the IMSD program and through VisionNet to several of the tribal colleges.

Leadership Alliance


An elder at The Summertime Gathering on the Fort Belknap Indian Reservation reads a document in a native language. The Technology Opportunity Program (TOP) helped make the event possible.
One of the collaborations between AIRO and the Leadership Alliance was the Leadership Alliance Tribal College Initiative which allowed students and science faculty from tribal colleges to participate in summer research opportunities at Brown University, Cornell University or Dartmouth College. MSU belongs to the Leadership Alliance, but most of the other members are Ivy League schools. Leadership Alliance is based at Brown University and also funds students from tribal colleges and MSU who want to participate in summer research internships either at MSU or one of the other Leadership Alliance institutions. In Montana, the alliance has provided money for the architectural design of visiting lecture facility/living quarters at Little Big Horn College and Chief Dull Knife College. Fund raising for building the lecture facility is one of the current Leadership Alliance projects.

Montana Apprenticeship Program (MAP)

MAP, another program administered by AIRO, is a six-week program that prepares Native American high school juniors and seniors for college and gives them opportunities to work in research laboratories. The students come to MSU-Bozeman during the summer and spend half their time in class and half on research projects. The university encourages the students to start out at tribal colleges before transferring to Bozeman. Tribal college faculty help recruit students for the program.

Montana Space Grant Consortium (MSGC)

Administered at MSU-Bozeman, the consortium involves every tribal college in the state as well as institutions in the Montana University System. Faculty who work at consortium campuses can apply for research grants. Undergraduates at those schools are eligible for scholarships. MSGC contributes a major portion of the funding for the Montana Apprenticeship Program (MAP).

National Teachers Enhancement Network (NTEN)-Elementary

MSU is collaborating with each of the state's tribal colleges to find elementary teachers who want to take graduate level courses related to the science behind elementary science kits. Funded by the National Science Foundation, the program uses the Internet to deliver teaching resources and development opportunities directly to the teachers.

Native Waters

Native Waters promotes indigenous and scientific ways of learning about water and natural resource management. It is a collaborative program involving tribal and non-tribal leaders, managers, educators, students and community leaders in 10 states, including Montana, that lie along the Missouri River watershed. The program is housed at MSU-Bozeman and funded by the National Science Foundation, the M.J. Murdock Charitable Trust, the Bush Foundation, the Bureau of Land Management and the Environmental Protection Agency.

Office of Tribal Service

The Office of Tribal Service is the only such office in the nation. Operated through MSU's Center for Native American Studies, its primary function is to work with the seven tribal colleges in Montana. It also facilitated many of the partnerships MSU has with tribal colleges and universities in other states. Besides acting as a liaison between Native American communities and MSU-Bozeman, the office recruits students who want to continue their education past tribal college. It provides information to students and serves as a meeting place for Native American students who attend MSU. Most of the Native American programs at MSU-Bozeman come through this office or AIRO.

Technology Opportunity Program (TOP)


Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell of Colorado (right) and Conrad Fisher of Chief Dull Knife College at the Fort Robinson Break-Out Commemoration in Lame Deer, Mont. The Cheyennels 1879 attempt to return to Montana instead of Oklahoma is one of many historical events the Technology Opportunity Program wants to help preserve.
The Burns Telecommunications Center at MSU received a $1.6 million grant to help four Montana Indian reservations use digital equipment for cultural and language preservation. With money from the U.S. Department of Commerce, the Northern Cheyenne, Crow, Rocky Boy and Fort Belknap reservations will start equipping their schools, senior centers and field museums with computers, scanners and related equipment. The grant will also provide training and support for staff at technology learning centers on the reservations.

Tribal College Librarians

The MSU Libraries and tribal colleges are working closely to meet the needs of tribal college librarians. A 1992 conference resulted in an annual one-week conference for tribal college librarians around the nation. The conference is normally held in Bozeman.

Evelyn Boswell


Partnerships Fit Gamble's Goals


MSU President Geoff Gamble
Two themes that were important to him when he came to Montana State University continue to be important, says Geoff Gamble, MSU's 11th president.

One was MSU's relationship with the Native American population and tribal colleges in the state. The other was framing effective partnerships to advance learning.

"Research partnerships with the tribal colleges allow us to do both things," Gamble commented.

Partnerships already exist between MSU and Montana's tribal colleges, and Gamble said he would like to enrich and enhance those in both research and education. In one effort to do that, he has asked the university community to look seriously at dual admission forms, so students at the state's tribal colleges will start thinking of themselves as university students. That should make it easier for them to make the transition to MSU.

Gamble praised the programs that give MSU students the opportunity to do research early in their educational experience and added, "I would like to see something like that for the tribal colleges."

Gamble, a linguist who specializes in preserving Native American languages, said he came about his interest in Native Americans early. His father's work placed the family in the midst of fairly large numbers of Native Americans. Later when Gamble started working on his master's degree in linguistics, it was natural for him to return to the people he knew.

"It''s been a long-standing interest of mine," he said.

Evelyn Boswell


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