Grow Your Own

American Indian College Fund fellowships support staff and STEM faculty pursuing graduate degrees.

By Paul Boyer

Danny Luecke, an instructor at Turtle Mountain Community College, is pursuing a PhD in math and math education. All photos courtesy of the American Indian College Fund.

Twenty-eight tribal college staff and faculty members pursuing master or doctoral degrees, including several working in STEM fields, are recipients of grants totaling over $400,000 from the American Indian College Fund. According to the College Fund, the fellowships, awarded twice a year, “build greater educational expertise in Indian Country and the academic capacity of the 35 TCUs the College Fund supports.”

Individual grants range from $20,000 to $25,000 maximum and are awarded to current faculty or TCU staff planning to become instructors.

Members of the 2022 cohort include several faculty seeking degrees in the STEM disciplines:

Karen Colbert
  • Karen Colbert is chair of the general education department and lead math faculty at Keweenaw Bay Ojibwa Community College, where she teaches math and STEM courses and shows students how to conduct research and do data visualizations. Seeking a Ph.D. in computational science and engineering, her dissertation is titled “Visualizing Equity: A Data Storytelling Approach to Evaluate Impact of Faculty Gender Bias Intervention.”
  • Danny Luecke (Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma), a newer member of the math faculty at Turtle Mountain Community College, is pursuing a Ph.D. in math and math education. His dissertation is titled “Dakota/Lakota Math Connections Reference Pages: A Math Resource based in Dakota/Lakota Culture, Values, and Language.” 
Neilroy Singer
  • Neilroy Singer (Diné), an adjunct instructor and environmental research specialist at Diné College, is completing a master’s degree in biology. According to College Fund Public Education Coordinator Colleen Billiot, Singer exemplifies efforts within tribal colleges to grow their own faculty. First serving as a researcher/staff member at Dine College, he later entered the college’s new master of science in biology program, which will allow him to take on more teaching responsibilities

Other recipients of the College Fund’s master’s, doctoral and pre-dissertation fellowships are pursuing degrees in educational administration, Indigenous literature and cultural theory, Native American leadership, general psychology, studio arts, linguistics and business, among other disciplines.

Tribal colleges often struggle to attract and retain faculty, especially in the sciences. Low pay, geographic isolation, lack of tenure or opportunities for research are among the factors that make them less competitive. The College Fund’s fellowship program is part of longstanding effort to help existing faculty grow professionally.

Story published April 20, 2023

• • •

Enjoyed this story? Enter your email to receive notifications.

Success! You're on the list.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *