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American Indian Research Opportunities (AIRO)

AIRO, a consortium of Montana's seven Tribal Colleges and MSU-Bozeman established in 1983, is dedicated to increasing the numbers of American Indians entering higher education and career fields where they are significantly underrepresented. AIRO is the umbrella organization for several specialized programs including the Initiative for Minority Student Development (IMSD), the Bridges to the Baccalaureate Program (BRIDGES), and the Montana (High School) Apprenticeship Program (MAP). All programs are funded wholly or in part by the federal government and foundations through such agencies as the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the National Science Foundation (NSF), and the Howard Hughes Medical Instititute. The major goal of AIRO is to provide opportunities for American Indian students in science, Mathematics, engineering, and technology (SMET) career fields. Through AIRO, American Indian students have the opportunity to excel and to serve as role models for other minority students. Descriptions of the programs administered under the consortium of AIRO are as follows:

The IMSD Program focuses on undergraduate students. The program's major goals are 1) to increase American Indian students' academic competency in the biomedical fields, 2) to provide laboratory experiences in biomedical research for American Indian college-level students interested in biomedical/allied health careers, 3) to expose American Indian students to a broad spectrum of career opportunities in biomedical/allied health fields, 4) to strengthen facilities and research resources at the Tribal Colleges, and 5) to increase the number of American Indians in biomedical/allied health fields.

The BRIDGES program collaborates with Little Big Horn College, Fort Belknap College, and Fort Peck Community College to increase the number of students successfully transferring from the two-year tribal colleges to MSU and pursing academic studies in the biomedical and other health-related sciences. BRIDGES activities include 1) conducting research seminars at the tribal colleges by MSU faculty and others in biomedical and behavioral sciences; 2) hosting spring workshops and campus visits to introduce tribal college students to the four-year campuses; 3) providing funds to cover the cost of tuition and fees for MSU course work to tribal college students during the summer months to improve students' academic competitiveness and confidence; 4) providing students with research experiences in biomedical and related laboratories at MSU; 5) developing mentoring relationships between the student participant and an MSU faculty member in a related discipline; 6)providing tribal college faculty with opportunities for professional development, including support for travel to biomedical and related professional conferences, research supplies, and/or opportunities for collaborative research with MSU faculty; and 7) providing on-campus support after students bridge from one campus to the other, continuing to motivate and guide these students through their completion of a B.S. degree.

MAP is a summer enrichment program on the MSU-Bozeman campus for Native American high school students who are interested in science and M and want to work in a research lab and live on a college campus. Over eighty-five percent of the students who have attended MAP in the past twenty three years have gone on to college, many in science, M, or engineering. The program also provides opportunities for middle and high school M and science teachers who work with Native American students. The teachers spend eight-ten weeks on campus working in research labs and interacting with the MAP students.

For more information contact AIRO, 312 Roberts Hall, 406/994-5567, or send e-mail to

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