Tribal Colleges Initiate Space Programs

Feb 15th, 2001 | By | Category: 12-3: How to Build a Dream, Tribal College News

Three members of the American Indian Higher Education Consortium (AIHEC) will be building space programs thanks to a new minority partnership program initiated by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). Of the 60 grant applications NASA received, 10 scored “outstanding” ratings, including all three tribal college applicants, according to Carrie Billy (Navajo), executive director of the White House Initiative on Tribal Colleges & Universities. “I believe the program NASA developed, which resulted from extensive consultation with minority institutions, will be a good model for other federal agencies to emulate. I especially like its focus on bridge building between minority serving institutions and the research community and on capacity building,” Billy said.

Diné College-Shiprock, N.M., will develop space science curriculum and then use the Internet to deliver both education and research programs to largely rural populations of Native American and Hispanic students. Students at each of the partner institutions will be able to complete or transfer to a four-year physics and astronomy degree, depending upon the college. The college received $635,000 for three years from NASA.

Southwest Indian Polytechnic Institute (SIPI) in Albuquerque, N.M., will partner with the University of New Mexico to establish a meteorite identification laboratory at SIPI and establish faculty and student research collaborations in Mars surface science. SIPI adopted a unique approach, combining space science knowledge with the Upward Bound format to reach high school students, parents, and teachers. The multi-tribal institution received $488,000 for three years from NASA.

Salish Kootenai College in Pablo, Mont., will develop four new courses in astronomy and astrophysics, including both on-campus and distance delivery. SKC received $12,852 for one year for these courses from NASA.

The new grant program is intended to enhance participation by both two-year and four-year minority institutions in space science education and research programs. In the past, most federal agencies’ grant programs involving research limited participation to only four-year universities. NASA wants to increase the understanding of science, technology, and the role of research by a more broad and diverse population.

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