Thursday, Nov. 11, 2010
The U.S. Department of Education Office of Postsecondary Education awarded a Native American-Serving Nontribal Institutions grant to the Utah State University-College of Eastern Utah San Juan campus to improve its capacity to serve Native Americans. The San Juan campus anticipates five installments totaling $1.875 million over the next five years.
The grant will fund the Pathway to the American Dream project which proposes to better serve Native Americans by increasing the enrollment and success rate of Native American students and preparing them for high-growth, high-demand professions while strengthening their communities. The hope is that increased access to education and better support services will enable Native American learners to create more opportunities for themselves, their families and their communities.
Three significant factors make the San Juan campus an ideal location to host a NASNTI project. First, at 50 to 60 percent, the proportion of Native American enrollment at the campus is among the highest of any public-supported institution of higher education in the nation. Second, the San Juan campus service area covers 40,000 square miles (including portions of the Navajo, Ute Mountain Ute, Southern Ute and Hopi nations) and encompasses the largest Native American population in the United States. Third, the San Juan campus is part of an extensive interactive distance education network that extends to many rural and isolated Native American communities.
“The San Juan campus service area lies at the heart of one of world’s most colorful and fascinating archaeological and geographical provinces,” said Virgil Caldwell, director of distance education and program development.
However, in the midst of the service area’s kaleidoscope of geological formations lie some harsh realities. The campus service area, so remote that it is classified as a frontier, has a high poverty rate. Other problems identified by the researchers include shortages in high-demand, high-growth professions training and low educational attainment. Low educational attainment and the high poverty rate are exacerbated by the geographic and social remoteness of the area.
To address the problem of low educational attainment and increase the enrollment and success rate of Native American Students, the project will improve methods to track academic progress and further develop remediation programming initiated by an earlier Title III grant. Faculty and staff will be trained to incorporate best practices and cultural sensitivity into their teaching, and Native Americans in remote areas will have better access to distance education courses and support services through outreach centers located in their communities.
To better prepare Native American students for gainful employment, the project will expand course offerings in programs, such as healthcare and teacher education, that lead to high-need, high-growth careers. To combat the destructive cycle of poverty and improve communities, the project employs a geographically focused approach that will improve support services and increase access to culturally sensitive programs through distance education delivery for students in remote Native American communities.
“The NASNTI grant is a great opportunity to improve the programs we already have and to improve customer service to the native population,” said Curtis Frazier, grant director “Through this grant, we can provide those opportunities to succeed.”
The San Juan campus has developed successful higher education programs in the remote and often neglected region for more than 30 years. During that time, faculty, administrators and Native American professionals have accumulated knowledge of the region and understanding of the culture that uniquely position them to provide compatible delivery of the college learning experience. NASNTI is one more chapter in an aggressive and lengthy history of competitive grant awards that have built the San Juan campus.
Contact: Virgil Caldwell, (435) 678-8203