New report looks to the future of TCUP


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The National Science Foundation will continue to support tribal and native-serving colleges, according to leaders within the federal agency. However, colleges that have already received substantial support in the past will be encouraged to pursue new funding opportunities related to documenting the impact of their educational work.

That’s one of the key findings in a newly published report outlining the history, impact, and future of the National Science Foundation’s Tribal Colleges and Universities Program (TCUP). Summarizing two days of presentations and discussions during the 2014 TCUP Leaders’ Forum, held earlier this year in San Antonio, Texas, the12-page publication stressed that the National Science Foundation’s commitment to the tribal colleges remains strong. However, it also noted that colleges must also look beyond capacity building as it pursues funding opportunities.

The report summarized the challenge this way:

“Representatives of the National Science Foundation candidly explained that the Foundation’s mission is not to indefinitely sustain core operations of a college or university. once capacity has been built or a program has been developed, project-specific funding ends. However, research into educational outcomes offers new options for continued engagement with the NSF, [TCUP Program Director Dr. Jody] Chase proposed. “When they get to the point where they no longer need to implement a new degree program then this is an area they might want to look into,” she said. “I view it as a kind of graduate degree.” It is an opportunity for colleges that are ready to move into the next phase of their development.”

The document identifies several possible research questions.

Copies of the report have been mailed to TCUP-eligible institutions. An electronic copy is available here: TCUP Leaders’ Forum Report

National Science Foundation undergraduate research symposium

The National Science Foundation is inviting tribal colleges to participate in the 2014 Symposium on Undergraduate Research in TCUP, planned for August 18.

Tribal college faculty and students interested in participating in this event should send an abstract (not exceeding 500 words) to Ms. Shanelle Clay (see email address in the attached flyer). Please indicate whether you are planning to do a poster or an oral presentation.

The symposium will be held at the National Science Foundation in Arlington, Virginia. Airfare and per diem reimbursements will be provided.


Privatizing American Science

As government funding for research shrinks, the nation’s research agenda is increasing shaped by billionaire entrepreneurs willing to invest large sums in science–especially science that reflects their personal interests.

That’s the conclusion of a recent New York Times story investigating the the growing “privatization” of science funding. Increasingly, researchers are depending on the deep pockets of Microsoft’s Bill Gates, Google’s Eric E. Schmidt, and Oracle’s Lawrence Ellison for work that, in the past, was conducted by government labs and or with federal dollars.

“This is philanthropy in the age of the new economy — financed with its outsize riches, practiced according to its individualistic, entrepreneurial creed,” summarized writer William Broad. “The donors are impatient with the deliberate, and often politicized, pace of public science, they say, and willing to take risks that government cannot or simply will not consider.”

Some applaud the willingness of the wealthy to finance cutting edge research, but critics worry that money only goes to “sexy” issues (like space exploration) and supports a narrow range of social concerns (such as environmental concerns), while ignoring “boring” fields like physics and most basic research.

Equally worrisome is the preference for supporting work conducted by the largest and most prestigious universities at the expense of smaller institutions. This can undermine “efforts to foster a greater diversity of opportunity — geographic, economic, racial — among the nation’s scientific investigators.”

What does this mean for tribal colleges? Does it represent an opportunity for tribal and native-serving colleges–institutions that might engage the interest of socially-aware billionaire-philanthropists? Or will Native Americans be among the losers as research becomes a project of the wealthy and not a matter of the public good?

Read the full story here:


Bill Gates in 2005. Photo by Mohammad Jangda at the University of Waterloo.

News from Bristol Bay, Alaska (it’s all good)

Friends at the University of Alaska’s Bristol Bay campus sent us their latest newsletter, which spotlights some interesting research activities in environmental studies and green design. It’s an inspiring overview of what is possible in even the remotest regions of the country.

Here’s the pdf: BBESL-Newsletter-Spring-2013-final

New doctoral program in climate change

Here’s an opportunity for your students:

The University of Idaho is inviting applications for an integrated graduate education and research traineeship focusing on water resources and climate change. Masters students “with a background in the water sciences, environmental science, ecology, climate science and related fields” are encourage to apply to this five year doctoral program. “Exceptional” baccalaureate students will also be considered.

According to the program web site, the NSF-funded program will allow students to “study impacts of climate change and population dynamics on physical, ecological, and socio-economic systems, and integrate these to formulate proactive adaptation scenarios for the Columbia River Basin.”

For more information:

TCUP Leaders Forum to be held January 3-4

Developing and expanding research programs within tribal and Indian-controlled colleges will be the theme of the 2014 TCUP Leaders Forum to be held January 3-4 in San Antonio, Texas. Representatives of all colleges funded through the National Science Foundation’s Tribal Colleges and Universities Program are invited to attend this event.

This year’s forum is being hosted by Sisseton Wahpeton College. According to Scott Morgan, director of institutional research and programs, the 2014 gathering will allow colleges to “share and explore best practices and innovative approaches to STEM research, instruction, and evaluation under the theme ‘Broadening Participation In Research: Focus on Tribal Colleges.’ In addition, participants will discuss workforce challenges, opportunities, and the economic impact of TCUP on the tribal communities served.”

Additionally, discussions and presentations will examine the role of culturally-based research and focus on ways to integrate research into undergraduate instruction and community development initiatives.

Look for reminders and updates in your email in-box from Scott Morgan. In addition, we are posting some additional information about the program and a tentative agenda below.

We look forward to seeing you in San Antonio this January. We cannot guarantee good weather, but we are hopeful that it will be warmer than Rapid City.

Tentative agenda:1st 2014 Working Agenda

Invitation letter:Leadership forum letter

Documenting the History of PEEC

An important goal of  The Native Engineering Report is to gather and make available a wide range of documents about PEEC and, more broadly, the history and impact of NSF-funded programs related to tribal and Native education. Ultimately, we hope this web site will become a comprehensive archive that will not only inform your current work, but also help support assessment and the development of future proposals.

Several publications are already available through the “Links” tab. In addition, we are now adding two more documents.

The first is a copy of Building Community: Reforming Math and Science Education in Rural Schools, a 2006 report exploring the work and impact of the NSF-funded Rural Systemic Initiative. Tribal colleges played a central role in developing innovative practices for k-12 schools in Indian Country and both the University of Hawaii and University of Alaska developed and ran programs in their states.  This qualitative study tells the story of their work. (Please note that this pdf is not the final published version, which has been lost. In design and content it varies slightly from the print publication). Click here for the report: Building Community final

Secondly, Carty Monette is helping us locate conference proceedings and reports that eventually led to the formation of PEEC. This week, we are uploading a summary of a 2005 NSF workshop that documented the need for engineering education in tribal colleges. It illustrates how the project grew and evolved out of conversations that began nearly a decade ago. Here’s the document: TCU_Report_Final

We will continue to post reports and documents. Check back for the latest additions.

College of Menominee Nation celebrates its first pre-engineering graduate

By Paul Boyer

College of Menominee proudly announced the graduation of its first pre engineering student. Charles James graduated in June and is currently attending the University of Wisconsin-Fox Valley where he plans to complete a B.S. in mechanical engineering.

“Charles was our first student and was a very understanding guinea pig for our experiments in instruction,” said College of Menominee Nation instructor Cody Martin. “Hopefully we managed to teach him as much as he taught us.”

James is, by all accounts, a highly talented student who enriched both the program and the college. “Charles was the valedictorian of his high school class (I’m told he was a talented running back on the football team) and is a man of impeccable character, diligence, charm and persistence,” Martin said. “He is a dedicated single father of one son who is more than a handful and rules his father with an iron fist (albeit a small one). I cannot think of anyone more suited to survive the birth of our little program. The tribe can be proud of his dedication and effort.”

“Of course we are all impatiently waiting for him to continue on to the completion of his baccalaureate degree,” Martin said.

Congratulations to both Charles and the College of Menominee Nation.



Twenty Years of National Science Foundation Support

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

The first TCUP projects were funded in 2001.  The majority of early projects were basic in scope, reflecting the status of STEM education at tribal colleges, and sought to develop or strengthen STEM general education requirements and two-year STEM programs of study.  Several of the funded projects proposed to increase access to technology, which was an emerging priority.

Today, NSF’s $13 million annual appropriation to TCUP supports TCU’s that want to develop 4-year STEM degrees, including elementary and secondary teacher education programs.  TCUP supports research.  The TCUP-PEEC funding strand supports pre-engineering capacity building at tribal colleges while promoting partnerships with mainstream institutions and with the private sector.

In a 2009 unpublished article I stated NSF-TCUP might be the most overarching capacity building opportunity ever made available to a tribal college from the federal government.  All tribal colleges depend on the federal government for basic operating expenses and funding has never been adequate.  TCUP funding is generous, it is supplemental, and it specifically targets the STEM needs of tribal colleges and the students being served.

TCUP has successfully met its purpose.  In little more then a decade tribal colleges have developed and strengthened STEM education and research.   Paul Boyer, who has written extensively about the tribal college movement, makes an interesting observation about the growth of STEM at tribal colleges

“…tribal colleges are making STEM education a top priority.  Recognizing that tribal development now requires strong math and science skills, many tribal colleges now offer four-year and even graduate degrees…..Graduates find employment as biologists, forestry technicians, and extension agents within tribal, state, and federal agencies.” (p.8)

I can personally attest to Paul Boyer’s observation.  I was president of Turtle Mountain Community College for nearly 30 years.  While president I also had the privilege of serving as the principle investigator for the Tribal College Rural Systemic Initiative.  On a few occasions I have shared a story about one of my pre-TCRSI experiences.

Carty Monette

Carty Monette

In the early 1990’s I was invited to speak to a group of Turtle Mountain Chippewa high school students to introduce a new summer program that was to focus on science and mathematics.   There were many parents in the room along with teachers and other visitors.  I asked the students if any of them had a relative who was a scientist or an engineer.  The answer was no.  I then asked if any of them knew anyone who was a scientist or engineer.  Again, the answer was no.

My point was to highlight how removed our tribal members have been from academic and professional participation in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.  Of course the responses I received were to be expected.  The Turtle Mountain high school students were representative of American Indians everywhere.  The fact was that in the early 1990’s the number of American Indians in STEM fields was so miniscule that government and other national data publications were unable to show the data on annual graphs and charts.  Over the last few decades tribal colleges have been working hard to improve the data but more importantly to assure American Indian students and communities are accessing high quality STEM education and research.

This Web site will highlight some of the work tribal colleges are doing.  Our primary focus will be on the NSF funded PEEC projects that are currently awarded to tribal colleges and Hawaiian serving institutions.  We will also include other STEM activities taking place at tribal colleges along with writings and publication. . If you are interested in learning the history of the NSF Pre-Engineering Education Collaborative please access the power point presentation and other information that is available elsewhere on this website.


 Dr. Gerald “Carty” Monette, Negoniwayton – Early Thunder, is a consultant for the SWC-PEEC project. Carty was President of Turtle Mountain Community College from 1975 – 2005

On December 3, 2002 during a special ceremony Carty was designated Eagle Staff Keeper, Chief of Education for the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa.  He was presented this Eagle Staff for his 30 years of service to TMCC.  Led by traditional leaders individuals and families gave eagle feathers for the Staff representing veterans and the veterans of the families.  On that day he was honored by the descendants of Chief Essence (Little Shell), Miskobiness, (Red Thunder), and Ginewash (Flying Eagle), when they brought him into that circle of Turtle Mountain “Spirit Chiefs”. Carty says “between now and the end of my journey on earth another Eagle Staff Keeper will be found for the Staff, probably at Turtle Mountain.”


Finding Faults

Summer field experiences support undergraduate learning for American Indian students at the School of Mines

By Paul Boyer

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.

Project Director Foster Sawyer, who serves on the faculty at the School of Mines and is the principal investigator for PEEC at his institution, described the White Clay Fault as a large and significant geologic feature running through Shannon County in the southwest corner of the state.

The team of two instructors and two undergraduate students is spending much of the summer mapping this feature. Regular trips to the fault provide a hands-on opportunity to identify and interpret rocks, fossils, and minerals that can provide rich insight into the formation of the region, said Sawyer. This basic research adds to the still incomplete documentation of the region’s geology.

“The things we see are going to give us information about tectonic events in the region, like the timing of the uplift of the Black Hills,” he said. “It has the potential to contribute some real information on some pretty meaningful questions.”

However, the summer-long field experience is also intended to test new approaches to undergraduate instruction in geology. Most programs do not provide fieldwork until the junior year, on the assumption that coursework must precede practical experience. However, this program is testing the increasingly popular idea that basic skills can be learned in the field and that inexperienced students can contribute to real research projects.

It’s part of what Sawyer calls the “vertical integration” of the curriculum. Field-based instruction combines observation and analysis, producing a richer and more relevant education.
This is an opportunity welcomed by Tyler Rust, a rising sophomore at the School of Mines, who is a member of the Oglala Sioux Tribe. Getting a jump start on fieldwork, he said, allows him to get a better understanding of his chosen profession. “You get an idea of what this job is like instead of going to school for four years and then seeing what it’s all about.”

Student Kristina Proietti agreed. A senior at the School of Mines, she followed a more traditional curriculum, but as a participant in this summer’s field experience, she sees how Tyler is getting a head start on his career. “Learning in the field is hands-on work,” she said. “You can sit in the lab and work with paper but you really don’t learn it until you go in the field and get data yourself.”

This is especially important for Indian students, according to Jim Sanovia, a faculty member at Oglala Lakota College, who also serves as an instructor and mentor in the summer program. American Indian students are often offered positions of leadership as soon as they graduate, he explained, reflecting the shortage of tribal members trained in STEM fields and the need for their expertise in reservation communities.

New graduates are “thrust into a management position, or become the boss, or are the only one with field experience” before the ink on their diplomas are dry, he said. In some cases, they are hired into these positions even before they graduate.

“It happened to me,” said Sanovia, who is a member of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe. A recent graduate of Oglala Lakota College, he was hired by the tribal college as a faculty member and GIS expert before he completed his graduate coursework at the School of Mines. He felt qualified, but he knows that earlier and more extensive fieldwork offered by this program will give future graduates an even greater advantage.

This early exposure to fieldwork poses challenges, as well, Sawyer acknowledged. Lacking some introductory coursework means that students need more instruction and support in the field. “Take students out in the field and hand them a map and say, ‘We’re going to do geologic mapping:’ That’s zero to sixty in about one second.”

But for committed students the benefits are real. Advocates say they learn more, are better prepared for work, and gain the skills and confidence needed to help their communities as soon as they graduate

mapping photo 1

Sandstone bluffs of the Miocene Harrison Formation overlie finer grained sediments of the Monroe Creek Formation in this impressive escarpment on the south flank of Slim Butte in the southwestern portion of the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, South Dakota. The White Clay Fault occurs just to the south of these bluffs. All photos by Foster Sawyer.

mapping photo 2

Students and faculty in the PEEC program lead local Native American high school students (note school bus in upper right portion of photo) on a field excursion to discuss stream health and the influence of geologic formations on water quality. Eroding sedimentary deposits such as this contribute suspended sediment to surface water in the stream.

mapping photo 3

Mudstones, siltstones, and sandstones of the Oligocene Brule Formation, rich in volcanic ash and fossil mammals remains, are exposed near the location where the Brule Formation was originally named in the headwaters of the White River in western Nebraska. The Pine Ridge escarpment, composed of younger geologic formations, is visible on the horizon.