The National Science Foundation has helped transform math and science programs at tribal and native-serving colleges. Carty Monette reflects on two decades of sustained support.
By Carty Monette
In a few months an important milestone will have been reached. Next year, 2014, will mark twenty years of direct funding from the National Science Foundation to tribal colleges.
In 1994 NSF initiated the Tribal College Rural Systemic Initiative (TCRSI), a targeted comprehensive strategy to increase the number of American Indians succeeding in science and mathematics. In the RSI program tribal colleges were provided the funds to lead systemic approaches to improve K-12 STEM education in 109 schools located in six states on 20 Indian reservations. TCRSI funding continued from 1994 to 2005 and in any given year well over 26,000 K-12 students were impacted.
Prior to TCRSI only a few tribal colleges had received funding from the National Science Foundation and at the National Science Foundation only a few individuals knew about tribal colleges. Throughout the ensuing 20-year relationship new programs and funding opportunities have opened for both tribal colleges and for the National Science Foundation. Perhaps the most important is the Tribal Colleges and Universities Program (TCUP), a NSF program that was created in 2000 to provide tribal colleges with the resources needed to build STEM capacity.
Summer field experiences support undergraduate learning for American Indian students at the School of Mines
A 40-mile-long fault zone east of the Black Hills has become an open-air laboratory this summer for a team of students and faculty from the South Dakota School of Mines and Oglala Lakota College.
The immediate goal is to map the geologic features of the rugged and semi arid region. But the larger purpose, according to team members, is to test new approaches to undergraduate instruction and support development of reservation communities in South Dakota.
This summer field experience is a collaboration between the School of Mines and Technology, a state-supported institution, and Oglala Lakota College, a tribally controlled college located on the Pine Ridge Reservation. Both institutions are part of the NSF-funded Pre-Engineering Education Collaboratives.