NSF funds four tribal research centers

The National Science Foundation’s Tribal Colleges and Universities Program has awarded $14 million to tribally controlled colleges to establish four research centers.

These Tribal Enterprise Advancement (TEA) centers, called the “first of their kind,” are expected “to become research and development resources for their reservations and communities,” according the original NSF solicitation.

While the NSF has long supported the development of STEM programs within tribal colleges, the centers were created to “address a critical tribal or community need or focus on a realm of STEM research or design that is beyond the scope of individual research grants or that is of interest to multiple tribes.”

According to an NSF announcement, each of the four funded centers will address environmental, social, educational, and economic challenges within Native communities.

“Having a trained scientific and engineering professional workforce, positioned for employment in tribal, state and national government agencies, will change the economic well-being and quality of life for reservations and other native communities,” said Jody Chase, program director in NSF’s Education and Human Resources Directorate. “We anticipate these new centers will produce greater innovation and economic expansion within the communities served by the TCUP institutions.”

The newly awarded centers are:

Developed by Northwest Indian College in Bellingham, Washington, this center will be affiliated with the college’s Salish Sea Research Center and partner with the Lummi Natural Resources Department of the Lummi Nation. The center will focus on research and educational outreach regarding the Salish Sea off the Pacific Northwest coast of the United States. Knowledge gained through this work will contribute to the understanding of the marine ecosystem and will be used by the tribe in managing their aquatic resources to protect water quality and ensure a safe and sustainable shellfish harvest.

Sponsored by Navajo Technical University in Crownpoint, New Mexico, this center will pursue additive manufacturing technology through education, research and economic development on the Navajo Nation. The Advanced Manufacturing Center will develop four new degree and certificate training programs in advanced manufacturing technology, including a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering; an associate degree in metal additive manufacturing technician II; and certificates in quality control inspection and metal additive manufacturing technician.

Developed by United Tribes Technical College in Bismarck, North Dakota, this center will expand the college’s record of serving the Northern Plains as a research and training center. It will conduct research and provide training and assistance to tribes in planning and managing multiple resources. The IRRC will operate on four core activities — research, outreach, training and education — and will immediately transform the institution by allowing first-time research faculty positions; employing a sustainable STEM research and outreach model; and utilizing a coordinated interdisciplinary approach to research, outreach, teaching and education.

Located at Aaniiih Nakoda College in Harlem, Montana, the Nic’-Mni’ (Water) Center will conduct and integrate findings from four related water research studies on issues of critical concern to the Fort Belknap Indian Community; offer training and education programs that will provide community members with the knowledge, skills, experience and credentials needed to address local water issues effectively; and gather and share information that can be used by the community to make informed decisions regarding the proper care and use of the reservation’s water resources. Training and education programs will target Aaniiih Nakoda College students, community employees and other local stakeholders.

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