Lilly Endowment Builds TCU Intellectual Capital

May 15th, 2007 | By | Category: 18-4: Health and Healing, Tribal College News

The American Indian College Fund has received a historic grant from Lilly Endowment Inc. The 5-year, $17.5 million initiative aims to build the intellectual capital of tribal colleges and universities (TCUs). The initiative will allow the diverse tribal colleges to tailor their programs to address their individual needs, while simultaneously strengthening the entire tribal college system.

Named Woksape Oyate (Lakota for “Wisdom of the People”), the initiative uses a multifaceted approach to enhance recruitment, retention, and development of highly qualified tribal college faculty, staff, and students.

Through a multifaceted approach, Woksape Oyate will develop leadership development programs, increased fellowship and sabbatical opportunities for staff, and pipeline programs to bring the best and brightest students back to teach at their tribal college. Institutional capacity will also be enhanced by creation of development offices and recruitment of highly qualified faculty.

The initiative also will strengthen academic programs at the tribal colleges by building tribal college academic centers of excellence in reservation communities, developing honors programs for students, and encouraging exchange programs to attract internationally renowned instructors to tribal college campuses. It will provide professional development opportunities for tribal college faculty. Finally, the initiative will provide much needed scholarship support to the best and brightest American Indian students in the United States.

With enrollment numbers rapidly expanding, tribal colleges rely heavily on private funding from supporters such as the American Indian College Fund and the Lilly Endowment to keep competitive with mainstream institutions. Tribal college faculty members routinely earn $20,000 less each year than their community college counterparts.

American Indian College Fund President Richard B. Williams lauded the vision behind the new initiative stating, “Lilly Endowment has long been a strong ally of traditionally underserved populations. Through its vision, we can significantly support the unsung heroes of the tribal college movement who seek to help our people through education.”

Lilly Endowment is an Indianapolis-based private philanthropic foundation created in 1937 by three members of the Lilly family.

More information on the American Indian College Fund can be found at More information about the endowment can be found at


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