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UMN Morris Awarded $1.5M for Native American Student Success

A group students wearing moccasins, with their feet arranged in a circle, seen from above
Author: 
Jenna Ray
Publication date: 
March 8, 2021

The University of Minnesota Morris was recently awarded a five-year grant from the U.S. Department of Education to support Native American student success. Totaling $1.5 million, the award will support transition to college, first-year experience programming, access to cultural resources, and student wellbeing at UMN Morris.

“The University of Minnesota Morris respects our responsibilities rooted in our site’s history as a Native American boarding school, our distinctive mission as a public liberal arts college within Minnesota’s land-grant university, and our federal recognition as a Native American-Serving Nontribal Institution,” says Chancellor Michelle Behr. “We are proud to be a university where more than 300 Native American students share and deepen their knowledge of Native American tribes, cultures, languages, and lifeways. And we look forward to strengthening this work in the years ahead.”

Transition to College and First-Year Experiences

The grant continues and builds on the Native American Student Success (NASS) program established in 2015. It will support a Native American-student-centered transition to college and an enhanced first-year experience for new Native students. It will provide cultural representation, role models, and supportive practices for Native American students at UMN Morris as well as faculty/staff professional development opportunities to build a more culturally informed, supportive campus climate. The project will also address the growing impact of student mental health challenges in interrupting students’ college progress by increasing understanding of intergenerational trauma, providing greater access to culturally relevant resources, and adding support for Native American students’ wellbeing.

Chip Beal, citizen of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma, serves as NASS director and interim assistant to the chancellor for Native American student success, partnerships, and inclusion. Beal says, “In my nearly three decades of work in Native American education, I have never seen the opportunity for student success in a quality higher education institution as I have being part of UMN Morris Native American Student Success. This is truly a game-changer for Native American students in the upper Midwest.”

Delaney Anderson ’22 from the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa serves as a NASS peer mentor for incoming Indigenous students. She chose UMN Morris because of its indigenous support and strong sense of community and says, “I’ve been able to learn a lot about my Indigenous culture at UMN Morris that I don’t think I could have learned anywhere else.” Anderson particularly values her Anishinaabe language coursework and the NASS Auntie in Residence Program, where elder women from surrounding Anishinaabe and Dakota communities teach students to bead, make moccasins, and create ribbon skirts and share other cultural practices and traditional teachings (all the more important, Anderson adds, because “a lot of the teachings weren’t able to be passed down in some Indigenous communities due to intergenerational trauma.”) She is pairing her campus leadership work and NASS-supported cultural learning with majors in psychology and human services and a minor in Native American and Indigenous studies.

A second U.S. Department of Education NASNTI-supported project is being launched to build cooperation between tribal colleges in Minnesota and UMN Morris, including transfer pathways for tribal college graduates to earn BA degrees.

Native Students at UMN Morris

UMN Morris is situated on land that was cared for and called home by the Dakota people, and later the Ojibwe people and other Native peoples from time immemorial. It housed an American Indian boarding school operated by the Sisters of Mercy and the U.S. government from 1887 to 1909. UMN Morris upholds the federal- and state-mandated tuition waiver tied to the transfer of the campus from the federal government to the State of Minnesota and admits eligible American Indian students tuition-free. Today, UMN Morris is the only federally recognized four-year Native American-Serving Nontribal Institution (NASNTI) in the Upper Midwest, with a growing number of American Indian students. Native American student enrollment at UMN Morris has doubled since 2008, with Native students comprising 27% of the student body this year. More than half of the American Indian students attending UMN Morris are from the regions' Ojibwe Tribal Nations, with another 25% from area Dakota/ Lakota/ Nakota Communities. Overall, 70 American Indian tribes and Alaska Native villages are represented on campus. Learn more at morris.umn.edu/native-american-students-morris/native-american-student-life

This activity is supported wholly or in part by the US Department of Education Native American-Serving Nontribal Institutions (NASNTI) program.