New U of I Visiting Tribal Scholars Program Aims to Create a New Generation of Scientists
May 04, 2020
MOSCOW, Idaho — May 4, 2020 — The new Visiting Tribal Scholars Program at the University of Idaho will connect Native American students in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) with indigenous scientific methodology that provides mentorship for student success.
Rates of Native American students in STEM colleges at U of I have been slowly decreasing, and efforts have been made to reverse the trend. The College of Natural Resources, which conducts the largest number of research projects by faculty and graduate students involving regional tribes, will be the host college for the program.
Dennis Becker, dean of U of I’s College of Natural Resources, said the concept for the Tribal Scholars Program has been in the works for a few years and started with discussions between tribal leaders and faculty members during the Tribal Summit on Natural Resources. The summit focused on ways colleges and universities can facilitate indigenous student education, increase enrollment and increase success rates of existing students. Tribal leaders and faculty identified needs interests in building capacity through collaboration, as well as understanding and embedding indigenous ways of knowing, pedagogies and values into the curriculum.
The visiting scholars program increases completion rates for Native American students by providing culturally responsive support by mentoring indigenous students, indigenizing curricula in affiliated programs and by providing direct linkages to regional tribes to engage in research or projects of mutual interest to the scholar and college. The intention is that visiting scholars might also model the value of STEM training for indigenous students in regional communities to increase enrollment.
“The regional tribes are intimately involved in issues like salmon recovery, forest restoration and watershed management,” Becker said. “By working with visiting scholars, we can broaden our efforts to train professionals while providing a more culturally appropriate experience for tribal students. Focusing on projects and courses of mutual interest is a win-win and involves multiple tribes over time.”
The program receives partial seed support for visiting scholars from the Idaho Established Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR), which is funded by the National Science Foundation. It will implement activities aligned with Idaho EPSCoR’s current GEM3 research initiative, which studies the genetic, environmental and social systems connected to rainbow trout and sagebrush populations, while helping researchers better understand organisms in the Gem State.
Visiting scholars will be recognized for their contributions in a natural resources or environmental science field and will be appointed to a term of up to two years, starting in fall 2020.
This project, “RII Track-1: Linking Genome to Phenome to Predict Adaptive Responses of Organisms to Changing Landscapes,” was funded under National Science Foundation grant No. OIA-1757324. The total amount of federal funds for the project will be $20 million, which amounts to 83 percent of the total cost of the project. The total amount of non-federal funds for the project will be $4 million, which amounts to 17 percent of the total cost of the project.
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About the University of Idaho
The University of Idaho, home of the Vandals, is Idaho’s land-grant, national research university. From its residential campus in Moscow, U of I serves the state of Idaho through educational centers in Boise, Coeur d’Alene and Idaho Falls, nine research and Extension centers, plus Extension offices in 42 counties. Home to nearly 12,000 students statewide, U of I is a leader in student-centered learning and excels at interdisciplinary research, service to businesses and communities, and in advancing diversity, citizenship and global outreach. U of I competes in the Big Sky and Western Athletic conferences. Learn more at uidaho.edu