Colleges Expanding International Agenda

Nov 15th, 2000 | By | Category: 12-2: Land is Life, Tribal College News

Representatives from seventeen tribal colleges and universities gathered in Washington, D.C., August 10-11, to participate in the first conference on international outreach activities for tribally-controlled institutions of higher learning. Organized by the American Indian Higher Education Consortium (AIHEC) and hosted by the National Association of State Universities and Land-Grant Colleges (NASULGC), the two-day event drew close to a hundred participants representing federal agencies, non-governmental organizations, and universities from Latin America, the South Pacific, and Alaska. The Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Agency for International Development provided key support for the conference.

AIHEC President Dr. David Gipp set the tone by challenging the multi-national audience “…to seek out and respond to indigenous peoples’ concerns for self-defined education and development.” Gipp highlighted AIHEC’s efforts to expand the organization’s international presence with indigenous populations in Russia, Latin America, and New Zealand.

One tribal college representative said the ability to survive cultural assimilation and genocide makes tribal colleges uniquely able to assist indigenous peoples now facing similar challenges in the remote corners of the world. Dr. George Godfrey of Haskell Indian Nations University in Lawrence, Kan., told the audience of a recently awarded USAID grant to develop a community-based water quality monitoring program in central Siberian villages. Kurt Russo of Northwest Indian College in Bellingham, Wash., described student and faculty exchanges with indigenous peoples of South and Central America to share tools and information needed to preserve their way of life. Drs. Mike O’Donnell and Lori Colomeda of Salish Kootenai College in Pablo, Mont., demonstrated their culturally relevant, internet-based distance education curriculum for aboriginal peoples in Australia, New Zealand, and Canada. Federal and non-federal representatives listened intently and worked quickly to identify support structures for the tribal colleges’ efforts.

On the second day, programs and partnership opportunities were presented by federal agencies (Departments of Agriculture, State, Education, Commerce, Interior, and the USAID). Participants also heard from non-governmental organizations and educational institutions, such as the American Association of Community Colleges, the Amazon Alliance, University of Michigan Population Fellows Program, and the University of Guam.

“The conference concluded with a newfound sense of purpose and understanding for all the participants,” according to John Phillips of AIHEC, who organized the gathering along with Yvonne Andualem of USAID. Future plans include additional technical workshops and tribal college campus visits. For more information, contact Mia Strickland at AIHEC, 703/ 838-0400 or email <>.

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