Colleges creating positions dedicated to Native American student success

A number of colleges and universities have founding charters that include a commitment to educate Native American, but their follow-through has been inconsistent. In its “Hiring Trends” column, The Chronicle of Education recently highlighted several institutions, such as Harvard University, that have created positions dedicated to ensuring the success of Native American students, noting that “more colleges are seeking workers to fill such positions.”

Native American students are underrepresented on the campuses of four-year public and private nonprofit colleges and universities, and their enrollment is declining. “The government has treaties to provide Natives with education, but what we’ve seen is a lot of programs and universities haven’t really thought about what are the best ways to do that,” Shelly Lowe, executive director of Harvard University’s Native American Program, told The Chronicle. “Those universities that have, and have hopefully really thought about it in more culturally appropriate ways, have created positions like this.” At Harvard, Lowe—a member of the Navajo Nation—has forged relationships with tribal high schools and colleges; she also raises awareness among faculty and staff and co-sponsors events on campus.

Other programs similarly help Native students transition to college life, including Yale University’s Native American Cultural Center and the Native American Program at Dartmouth College. These programs are crucial in supporting student success, given that Native students may not have had “education systems that adequately prepare them for various elements of the college experience,” Sarah Palacios, director of Dartmouth’s program, told The Chronicle.

The California Indian Nations College, meanwhile, is one of the latest attempts to create an intertribal college focused on the needs of Native American students and collaborating with other area colleges. Eastern Oregon University, Pomona College, and the University of Minnesota at Morris are other public institutions looking to hire staff dedicated to building and supporting the Native American student community, The Chronicle reports.

“I would like to say that all colleges should have this position, but as a realist I know that the funding isn’t always there,” said Lowe, acknowledging that universities have varying resources and connections to Native American communities.

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