On Monday, the U.S. Department of Agriculture awarded three Wisconsin land-grant institutions — UW-Madison, Lac Courte Oreilles Ojibwe College and the College of Menominee Nation — a grant to make postsecondary education more available to Native American students.
The grant provides aid for the specified colleges by encouraging the institutions to find new ways to aid Native Americans in increasing access to postsecondary education
“Historical in nature, this project is the first formal collaborative approach between all three land-grant institutions in Wisconsin,” said Amber Marlow, dean of continuing education at Lac Courte Oreilles Ojibwe College. “The project has the ability to effectively recruit, foster and engage native students in their educational journey.”
“Education must enhance people’s lives beyond the boundaries of the classroom, supporting Native American educational achievement aligns with the university’s commitment to public service,” mentions the news release. “As such, UW-Madison remains committed to advancing Native American student success.”
The Wisconsin Land-Grant System Partnership for Advancing Native Education Pathways project, which the grant will fund, has four main goals.
The first goal involves collaborative efforts between tribal education departments and other educational institutions or systems aiming to bolster “culturally responsive Native Education Pathways from K-12 and higher education into STEM careers,” UW-Madison Strategic Communications Specialist Kristina LeVan says in a Sept. 28 news release.
LeVan continues to describe the project’s second goal: to provide learning strategies catered toward Native American students. Strategies include “precollege Indigenous science learning experiences that integrate Traditional Ecological Knowledge, evidence-based content and educational processes,” according to LeVan.
The third goal is to provide professional development, as well as additional educational experiences, with greater cultural competency amid increased partnerships between school districts and Native American communities.
Lastly, the project aims to “improve equitable and sustainable resources, policies and systemic infrastructure for coordinating strategies among land-grant college partners for Native American students’ postsecondary admission, retention and progression into successful STEM careers.”
While the three institutions may serve different mission statements, each agrees that nurturing the next generation of Native American youth is a top priority.
Marlow leads the project alongside UW-Madison director of Earth Partnership Indigenous Arts and Sciences in the College of Letters & Science’s Department of Planning and Landscape Architecture Cheryl Bauer-Armstrong and youth program coordinator at the College of Menominee Nation Brandon Frechette.
“A deeply collaborative approach between tribal, university and K-12 partners has the potential to transform education to be more equitable and culturally responsive, as well as building bridges, trust and respect,” Bauer-Armstrong said.
UW-Madison will continue to collaborate with the Lac Courte Oreilles Ojibwe College — which seeks to educate students about Objiwe culture, history and language — and the College of the Menominee Nation, which preserves and applies native knowledge of the Menominee area in a classroom environment.
“Culturally responsive instruction that includes Indigenous knowledge is critically important for Native American student success,” says Aaron Bird Bear, tribal relations director for UW-Madison and the Division of Extension.
Leaders are hopeful that this grant and related project will create a lasting impact on the lives of Native American students across Wisconsin.