NWIC to grant first BS In Environmental Science

May 15th, 2009 | By | Category: 20-4: Tribal College Leadership and Vision, Tribal College News

As Northwest Indian College (NWIC, Bellingham, WA) celebrates its 25 year anniversary, it will grant its first four-year bachelor’s degrees this year. The four-year Native environmental sciences program combines traditional Native-American knowledge with conventional environmental science.

Jessica Urbanec, a Lummi, expects to be one of those graduates. “We incorporate our cultural beliefs with all the science,” Urbanec told the Bellingham Herald. “We have a direct link to the land because we have been here for generations.”

Northwest Indian College descends from the Lummi Indian School of Aquaculture, which began in 1973 to provide training in salmon and shellfish-rearing techniques. In 1983, the Lummi Indian Business Council wanted to create a more comprehensive program, and the school became Lummi Community College.

By 1989, the college was attracting tribal youth from the region and took its present name. The main campus serves about a quarter of the college’s approximately 1,100 students. The rest attend classes via Webcam facilities at six other reservation locations in the Northwest. Students from about 100 tribes are enrolled. About 20% of the student body is non-Indian.

To meet its increasing responsibilities, the tribal college is building a new campus. In January, the college took a big step in its $40.2 million capital campaign when the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians (Highlands, CA) donated $2.5 million. To date, NWIC has raised $30 million with $10.2 million remaining. In addition to the gift from San Manuel, funds raised include significant contributions from the Lummi Indian Business Council, Twenty-Nine Palms Band of Mission Indians, Trillium Corporation, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and the Paul G. Allen Family Foundation.

Phases I and II of the campaign resulted in new student housing, a child care center, and a new classroom building at the Lummi campus and a classroom/office building at the college’s Swinomish site. The college expects to break ground this year on a $3.7 million Center for Student Success, an office building that will bring together student services now scattered in other buildings. It also plans a $1.6 million natural-resources lab, a new library, and a new Coast Salish Institute building.

Additional planned facilities include a workforce training center and more classroom and office facilities. Financial independence remains an important aspect of the campaign. “We are keeping our eyes on the vision of building a Sanctuary of Learning and four-year institution by 2011,” says President Cheryl Crazy Bull.

This article was compiled from a report by John Stark in the Bellingham Herald and a college press release. For information about Northwest Indian College and its foundation see the NWIC website at www.nwic.edu.

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