Launch of AIMS Promises Foundation for Change

Nov 15th, 2004 | By | Category: 16-2: Tribal College Research
By Gerald E. Gipp, Ph.D.

Gerald E. Gipp

When six tribal colleges formed the American Indian Higher Education Consortium (AIHEC) 31 years ago, they knew that research would be part of their missions. While they had textbooks for classes such as math and computer science, they needed to develop their own curricula to teach the language and culture of their tribes.

Instructors and students went out into the community to research cultural traditions. Since that time, research has become increasingly important at the tribal colleges and universities (TCUs).

Research is also a priority for the staff of AIHEC, who are based in Alexandria, VA, and three field offices.

One of our most significant projects was launched earlier this year. The American Indian Measures for Student Success (AIMS) initiative is relying upon focus groups with TCU presidents, faculty, staff, and students to define indicators of success. This data will be the foundation for systemic change.

In our efforts to provide technical assistance and advocacy for the TCUs, AIHEC has many other research initiatives, some of which are listed below:

  • tracking federal legislation to be sure TCUs are not negatively impacted. The legislation that affects TCUs this year, for example, includes several annual appropriations bills, reauthorization of the Higher Education Act, the Tribally Controlled College or University Assistance Act, the Carl D. Perkins Vocational and Technical Education Act, and the Head Start Act
  • involving tribal cultural traditionalists, elders, and academic experts in developing an indigenous evaluation framework for science and math education. This framework will honor tribal values, expectations, protocols, and Native ways of knowing
  • working with a TCU student advisory board to conduct focus groups and determine how to best market the HIV prevention message to American Indian communities
  • conducting market research for Tribal College Journal subscriptions
  • determining the academic credentials of one tribal college’s faculty and staff and their academic goals.  This will help identify advanced degree programs to meet the needs of faculty and staff at all the colleges.
  • collecting materials on American Indian leadership
  • assessing the current capacity and needs of the TCUs for developing public health programs and prevention research
  • collecting data on TCU student count, graduation rates, programs of study, accreditation status, cost analysis of TCU v. mainstream institutions, and alumni.

Working together with our federal and private partners, AIHEC and the tribal colleges and universities are building a strong foundation of research to help us make good decisions for tomorrow.

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