NWIC strategic planning based on culture, place

May 13th, 2011 | By | Category: 22-4: Honoring Student Success, Tribal College News

Northwest Indian College (NWIC, Bellingham, WA) has transformed its institution in the past several years through a strategic planning process focused on bringing cultural content and context into the academy. Four tribal college administrators presented a workshop on this at the 12th annual American Indian Studies Association Conference Feb. 3-4 at Arizona State University, and the room was full of mainstream university administrators, faculty, and students.

“Before Cheryl (Crazy Bull) came in 2002, we looked like any other community college, other than a few courses in basketry,” said Sharon Kinley (Lummi), director of the Coast Salish Institute at the college.

Crazy Bull (Sicangu Lakota), who has been involved in the Tribal College Movement since the 1970s, brought a commitment to honor the tribal college and university identity when she was selected as NWIC president in 2002. Speaking at the conference in February, she said this means giving voice to Natives. “The faculty needs to know that the students come with more knowledge than they have.”

A key component of NWIC’s “placebased” strategy is Native Studies. Kinley described Native Studies as “a cultural strategy for revitalization, both a discipline and an approach to teaching and learning throughout the institution.”

Tribal leaders groomed Kinley for leadership beginning when she was 19 years old. “They were very deliberate about passing leadership on.” NWIC is also deliberately growing its own leadership.

Kinley and Crazy Bull were accompanied by two younger administrators, who addressed implementation of the plan. Nadine Bill (Lummi), the director of institutional research, said, “My job is to make it measurable so we can show the students and the community that we are fulfilling our mission. As we communicate back to the community, we continue to learn.”

“We support tribal identity,” said Cindy Cultee (Lummi), the director of assessment and the first-year experience. “Some students are just learning what that means.”

Myla Vicenti-Carpio, Ph.D., asked the speakers what more they want to accomplish. Kinley said, “We would be happy if we could raise a generation who values our culture.” Vicenti- Carpio, an assistant professor of American Indian Studies at Arizona State University, said, “I commend you. You’ve taken theory to practice.”

For more information, contact Nadine Bill, nbill@nwic.edu.

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