Native American-Serving, Nontribal Institutions Planning Grants

The Native-Serving Institutions Initiative seeks to mobilize Native American-Serving, Nontribal Institutions (NASNTIs) to have greater presence and impact in state and federal higher education policy arenas. A key component of this work has been through institution grants to NASNTIs. Eleven NASNTIs have been awarded planning grants to foster their institutions’ increased use of high-impact educational practices and to develop promising practices that will support the educational success of AI/AN college students. The following is a brief summary of the projects at each of the 11 institutions.

Connors State College

Connors State College’s (CSC) service region includes seven counties in Eastern Oklahoma and two tribal nations and nearly a third of the student population identifies as AI/AN. CSC’s planning grant focuses on their nursing program, which is one of the college’s largest programs and is about 37 percent AI/AN students. Despite the higher percentage of AI/AN students enrolled in the program, AI/AN students have low success rates on the Kaplan Nursing Entrance exam and NCLEX exam for state licensure. CSC Nursing faculty will implement workshops in an effort to improve technical reading and writing skills. These workshops have three goals:

  • Independently read and understand complex academic texts
  • Critically respond to the ideas and information in academic texts
  • Writing critically and integrate ideas and information from academic texts.

The workshops will also include components of metacognition, where students are able to reflect on how they think and develop the skills to overcome obstacles. The workshops will be supplemented by Growth Mindset programs and panels which are intended to increase a sense of social belonging and resilience. Examples of the Growth Mindset panels include current students sharing their experiences of overcoming initial worries about their postsecondary education and new students reflecting on their shared experiences with the speakers. Embedded in the curriculum development of the workshops and programming will be professional development for CSC Nursing faculty. These professional development opportunities are expected to increase cultural competency as the faculty carries out their new program with an equity imperative. The plan of action will be measured using an Index of Success model, which includes five indices and will specifically be measuring AI/AN enrollment in CSC’s nursing program, increase in AI/AN student outcomes, and increase in student understanding of concepts of growth mindset.

Project Director

Robin O’Quinn, Assistant Vice President for Academic Affairs


East Central University

East Central University (ECU) has a service area that encompasses eight American Indian tribes and the student population is about 16 percent AI/AN. ECU’s planning grant is focused on the planning phase of a long-term, comprehensive program—Tribal Resources to Enhance Achievement and Completion in Higher Education (REACHE). REACHE is intended to engage AI/AN students in culturally-relevant learning experiences, provide experimental learning opportunities—particularly internships that are relevant to Tribal needs—and providing an on campus “Sovereign Center.” During the two-year REACHE Planning Phase, the college will engage in various activities to gather data and evidence of preferred culturally-relevant resources to be included in the REACHE program. ECU will establish a planning committee to oversee the planning process, which will include:

  • Tribal Outreach: Members of the REACHE team will travel to the eight service-area tribal agencies to introduce the project and demonstrate the value of tribal input and participation.
  • Focus Groups: Student focus groups will provide ECU AI/AN student input and perspective.
  • Tribal Forums: The team will also host two Tribal forums, the first of which, will include the eight Tribal agencies within ECU’s service area and the second will include other Tribal agencies from Oklahoma and across the U.S.

The planning phase will be evaluated by the demonstration of outcomes related to the focus groups and forums, as well as the level of evidence and data provided in order to develop the long-term REACHE plan.

Project Director

Rhonda Hibbard, Director NASNTI HERITAGE Program


Fort Lewis College

Fort Lewis College (FLC) is one of two public universities in the country that grants tuition waivers to qualified students from Federally recognized Tribes and has done so for over 100 years. Based on their historical commitment and current high population of AI/AN students enrolled (35 percent), FLC is in a position to seek new opportunities for better serving AI/AN students. The planning grant is expected to expand diversity and inclusion in the FLC curriculum and implement new pedological practices. A key finding from the college’s recent strategic planning process was that “faculty and staff overwhelming identified the need for increased professional development opportunities around training in diversity and inclusion and in aligning programming/programs so that underserved students are retained and graduated at increased rates.” FLC’s planning grant seeks to address the need for increased professional development, while also identifying institutional barriers for AI/AN student success, best practices in high impact practice implementation, and how to best use FLC retention data in way that supports a framework for addressing the attainment gap for AI/AN students through three objectives:

  • AI/AN Retention and Student Success Committee: Eight faculty and staff will establish the AI/AN Retention and Student Success Committee with the purpose of assessing retention barriers in and out of the classroom and identify student pathways that foster academic outcomes for baccalaureate completion.
  • AI/AN Retention and Student Success Strategic Plan: The strategic plan will be developed by the established Retention and Student Success Committee. The plan will identify three to five high impact practices that show promise in improving AI/AN student outcomes. Retention assessments, reviews of retention data, and research on high impact practices at Tribal institutions will be used by the committee in informing the development of the strategic plan.
  • Professional Development: Team members will attend the Institute on First Generation College Students and the Annual Conference on the First-Year Experience, which will increase FLC’s institutional knowledge on high impact practices. Members of the project team are also expected to conduct campus visits at two Tribal colleges in the Navajo Nation to learn about high impact practices at these institutions.

The planning process will be assessed through meaningful benchmarks within the two-year span. The strategic plan is also expected to be piloted during the second year and will yield preliminary data on the plan’s effectiveness.

Project Director

Jesse Peters, Dean, School of Arts and Sciences


Kodiak College – University of Alaska Anchorage

Kodiak College (KoC), a community campus of the University of Alaska Anchorage located on the Kodiak Archipelago serves students in-person and through eLearning throughout the Kodiak Archipelago, south central Alaska, and the state and country. In Fall 2016 16 percent of the student population identified as AI/AN, and over 80 percent of all students are non-degree seeking, which provides obstacles for the institution in supporting students to completion. KoC’s planning grant seeks to examine strategies to improve AI/AN student success and builds on KoC’s current efforts in providing access to focused tutoring and the offering of culturally relevant courses both in-person and online. KoC’s proposed plan of action targets AI/AN students through five concrete objectives that are intended to foster a sense of inclusion and promote student success and retention. The five objectives include:

  • Focused Personal Advising: student coaches will be paired with five AI/AN students each semester to provide one-on-one virtual and in-person weekly meetings that are focused on student progress and address concerns.
  • Cohort Building: The development of a new student community, Cama’i Club, which will provide a forum for AI/AN students to celebrate their cultural identity through twice-monthly meetings as well as Fireside Chats, Service Learning, and other community activities.
  • Enhance Communication: Along with the in-person gatherings of the Cama’i Club, there will also be the development of an online Cama’i community through the Blackboard platform. This online resource will be a clearinghouse of important information for AI/AN students, including advisor and faculty contact information, KoC deadlines, scholarship information, online forums and discussion boards, and others.
  • Implement use of ePortfolios: All students in the Alutiiq Studies Program language and cultural courses will being using ePortfolios to demonstrate student work and progression beginning in Fall 2018.
  • Provide Student Transportation: KoC has identified student transportation as a pertinent and practical barrier for student success and will be providing transportation assistance on the Kodiak Area Transit System for classes and key events on campus and at satellite learning facilities.

Each objective addresses specific barriers KoC AI/AN students face and will be measured using a mixture of quantitative and qualitative measurements throughout the course of the planning grant.

Project Director

Elizabeth Eufemio, Assistant Professor of Alaska Native Studies, Alutiiq Studies Coordinator


Montana State University – Northern

Montana State University-Northern (MSU-N) is north central Montana’s comprehensive institution for programs at the associates, bachelors, and masters levels and has a service area that includes four American Indian reservations. Fourteen percent of the student population identifies as AI/AN. MSU-N’s planning grant builds on the institutions ongoing Native American-Serving, Nontribal Institution (NASNTI) Title III project, the Little River Institute (LRI). The LRI addresses two institution problems—low completion and retention rates for AI/AN students—through four project activities. These activities include:

  1. Culturally Responsive Tutoring
  2. Professional Development on Cultural Responsiveness
  3. Culturally Responsive Mentoring
  4. Gathering Space and Support for the Sweetgrass Society.

MSU-N’s planning grant is embedded within the second NASNTI project activity, Professional Development on Cultural Responsiveness. Over the two-year planning grant, MSU-N will offer a monthly American Indian Education Lecture Series. These lectures will be open to faculty and focus on cultural responsiveness. The overarching goal of the LRI is to double six-year completion rates at MSU-N for first-time, full-time AI/AN students. The lecture series will be evaluated by attendance and feedback reporting.

Project Director

Margarett Campbell, Director of American Indian Education


Northeastern State University

Northeastern State University (NSU) has been recognized as having the largest number and highest percentage of AI/AN students among public four-year institutions and currently serves students from over 30 tribal nations. Over the course of the planning grant, NSU will build on current efforts of two campus initiatives—the NSU Center for Tribal Studies and the Native American Support Center (NASC)—to provide NSU’s large AI/AN student population with high impact strategies to increase retention and graduation rates and enrich the student’s academic and intellectual experience. NSU’s Center for Tribal Studies focuses on providing leadership opportunities, helping students apply for scholarships and internships, and providing cultural activities and programming across campus and in the community. The NASC focuses on increasing retention and graduation rates through academic interventions, tutoring/mentoring, and graduate school and career preparation. NSU’s planning grant will build on the current efforts of the Center for Tribal Studies and the NASC through three strategies:

  • First-Year Experience and Seminar: One section of NSU’s University Strategies course will be for American Indian students and will be led by the Director of the Center for Tribal Studies. The course will incorporate culturally relevant programming and provide information on the AI/AN support offered through the Center for Tribal Studies and the NASC. The first-year experience will coincide with the other two strategies included in the planning grant.
  • Living Learning Communities: The Native Scholars Living Learning Community is available to freshman and upperclassmen and offered through University Housing. The Center for Tribal studies will lead monthly programming events related to scholar engagement, cultural activities, and community service.
  • Common Intellectual Experiences: The first-year students enrolled in the American Indian section of the University Strategies course will be enrolled in general education courses together with specific study groups and tutoring opportunities offered to these students through the NASC. The students will also participate in a common read program with weekly reading group sessions.

These activities will be evaluated over the course of the grant through an assessment of enrollment and attendance data, course assignments, and class performance data.

Project Director

Sara Barnett, Director of Center for Tribal Studies,


Northern Oklahoma College

Northern Oklahoma College (NOC) includes three campuses with a service area that includes six tribal agencies. Recently, NOC’s AI/AN enrollment increased, however, completion rates for AI/AN students decreased compared to non-AI/AN students. In order to increase completion rates of AI/AN students, NOC used their existing NASNTI grant funding to create a mentoring program for AI/AN students and language preservation for local tribes. The ten mentors are all Native American, recent NOC graduates and are available to all AI/AN students. A key limitation of the current mentoring program is that mentors can only communicate via phone, text, and email due to limited funds for mentor travel. Over the two-year planning grant, NOC will supplement their current NASNTI funding by providing travel stipends for mentors to travel to the Tonkawa campus. These in-person mentorship meetings are expected to foster deeper connections between mentor and mentee and increase outcomes for the program. Additionally, NOC will be creating a Mass Communications internship program to record mentor/mentee interactions, particularly as it relates to job-shadowing and professional discussions. These recordings, along with student documentation of the mentorship program, will be used in the creation of a resource library centered on Native American culture for NOC’s Cultural Engagement Center. This library will support a more inclusive environment for AI/AN students and provide a deeper understanding of cultural awareness for non-AI/AN students and faculty. Lastly, NOC intends on doing similar recordings of Native language speakers, which will support further preservation of the Native culture and language. The evaluation of the planning grant will take place over the course of the two-year project and is centered on increasing retention and graduation rates for AI/AN students, as well as the results of a student survey that will measure student sense of belonging.

Project Director

Scott Haywood, NOC Mass/Oral Communications


San Juan College

The student population of San Juan College (SJC) is about 30 percent AI/AN and is among the top of the nation in awarding associate degrees to AI/AN students. However, AI/AN students at SJC complete at lower rates than their peers and the institution has made it a key initiative to provide AI/AN students with access to effective service opportunities, including service learning and internships. SJC’s planning grant seeks to address four specific questions:

  1. What experimental learning opportunities exist?
  2. What solutions will remedy where and why gaps exist?
  3. What needs and opportunities exist for service among community and industry partners?
  4. How can SJC strengthen relationships and build new partnerships for AI/AN experimental learning?

SJC will address these questions through a variety of activities over the two-year grant including:

  • Roundups: SJC will host two service-learning conferences, or Roundups, to bring together stakeholders to share best practices, projects, and results. These Roundups will also service as recruitment opportunity to encourage participation in service learning for students, faculty, and community partners.
  • Summits: SJC will host two summits during the two-year grant. These summits will bring together community partners from K-12 school districts, non-profit community organizations, and business/industry partners in an effort to promote internship opportunities for students.
  • Professional Development: Project leaders will use SJC’s Center for Professional Exploration and Development to host professional development workshops related to service learning and internships.
  • Day of Service: SJC will plan and coordinate a day of service during the end of October or beginning of November to connect October’s Be the Change with Native American Heritage Month in November.

During the early stages of the grant, SJC will establish baseline metrics to develop a target population of students and faculty. The project team will a conduct a survey of the target population in order to develop a baseline understanding, awareness, and interest in experimental learning. Throughout the grant period, SJC will be working to secure at least 10 non-profit and workforce partnerships. The expectation is that at the end of the grant period, all students in the top 10 courses with AI/AN enrollment will complete an experimental learning opportunity. Through these efforts, SJC expects to develop a better understanding of current gaps among their student populations, increase service learning and internship capacity, and contribute better prepared students into the region’s workforce.

Project Director

John Carroll Boggs, Interim Dean, School of Humanities


Seminole State College

Seminole State College (SSC) intends to build on current efforts being carried out through their NASNTI grant by expanding transformative learning experiences to AI/AN students. SSC’s Transformative Learning Model originated in the Language Arts and Humanities division and currently serves as its own course, Learning Strategies. Learning Strategies is focused on helping students develop the skills and knowledge for personal and academic success. SSC also provides cultural programming throughout the year, including Native performances, movies, and speakers. Lastly, SSC’s Coaching Specialist provides intensive, customized support. During the project, the Coaching Specialist is expected to establish a cohort of 40 AI/AN students enrolled in a Learning Strategies course. Students enrolled in the course will gain knowledge of SSC units and departments, write reflections, participate in group presentations, and develop effective communication skills. Additional coaching will be provided by the Coaching Specialist, who will use SSC’s early alert system to identify students who would most benefit from additional coaching opportunities. Student learning outcomes will be measured using the online software, Flipgrid, which allows students to upload videos demonstrating their understanding of course content and provide reflection across topics. The activities are intended to supplement the ongoing NASNTI strategies at SSC and provide more transformative learning opportunities to AI/AN students.

Project Director

Carol Parker, NASNTI Director


University of Minnesota – Morris

The University of Minnesota-Morris (UMM) is located in rural Minnesota, about three hours from Minneapolis and has six Native tribes within 150 miles of the campus. UMM’s connection with AI/AN students goes back to the founding of the institution, and UMM continues to the serve the AI/AN population through tuition waivers to qualified students of Federally recognized Tribes. UMM identified four barriers to AI/AN student success and will seek to address these barriers through the planning grant. The four identified barriers include: the need for cultural support and role models, academic and student support, the need for culturally relevant curriculum, and financial challenges for students and families. UMM intends to build on current efforts in place to foster AI/AN student success through two new efforts that address the need for cultural support and academic and student support barriers. The two new initiatives include:

  • NASNTI Student Cohort/STEM New Student Cohort Pilot: This pilot program will be the first year-long academic discipline based first-year experience program offered at UMM and provides an opportunity for first-year STEM students to connect as a new cohort and within their major. Entering AI/AN students with declared majors in Biology, Chemistry, and Psychology will convene as cohorts and be paired with a faculty mentor and upperclassmen peer mentor.
  • Campus Conversations, Convenings, and Action Plans: The project lead and Vice Chancellors are expected to bring together campus stakeholders and American Indian Advisory Committee members in an assessment and planning process to further AI/AN undergraduate success.

The success of the pilot program will be measured through formative assessments, quantitative and qualitative data collection, as well as through measurement of student persistence and success rates. The stakeholder convenings are expected to result in the draft of a 10-year action plan to increase AI/AN student achievement.

Project Director

Sandra Olson-Loy, Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs


University of North Carolina at Pembroke

The University of North Carolina at Pembroke’s (UNCP) historical roots are deeply tied with the political and cultural center of the Lumbee Tribe of North Carolina and the university remains committed to providing educational opportunities for the American Indian population within the nine-county region the institution serves. UNCP’s planning grant is a seven-phase planning grant to be carried out over the course of the next two-years. The planning process includes:

  • Phase 1 – Baseline Data Collection: This phase has already been completed by the institution and is serving as the baseline for further data collection and analysis over the course of the project. The project team found that there is a significant and quantifiable need to increase retention, progression, and graduation rates of AI/AN students, particularly in programs areas with high student attrition, high rates of AI/AN enrollment, and secondary admission processes or has historically difficult gateway courses. These program areas include: Biology, Teacher Education, Pre-Nursing/Nursing, Business Administration, and Sociology.
  • Phase 2 – Community Stakeholder Meetings: These meetings will inform key stakeholders of the project, present the statement of the problem, and discuss preliminary solutions. Community stakeholders include: Lumbee Tribe of North Carolina, Robeson Community College, the Public Schools of Robeson County Indian Education Program, and representatives from various tribal communities within Lumbee Tribe territory.
  • Phase 3 – Focus Groups: The project team will gather data from focus groups and surveys conducted with current AI/AN students, AI/AN alumni, AI/AN students who left, and AI/AN faculty and staff.
  • Phase 4 – Analyzing Data from Phases 1-3
  • Phase 5 – Second Round of Stakeholder Meetings
  • Phase 6 – Development of an Action Plan based on data and evidence from Phases 1-5
  • Phase 7 – Implementation of the Action Plan

It is expected that through the seven-phase planning project, UNCP will develop an action plan that includes the implementation of high-quality, high-impact practices that will increase the level of degree attainment for AI/AN students and decrease time to degree for students. The project will be assessed using measurable outcomes associated with each of the planning phases.

Project Director

Ashley McMillan, American Indian Liaison to the Chancellor