Twelve Native American students will receive funding to participate in STEM-based doctoral degree programs at the University of Idaho as part of a $1 million grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF).

This effort, funded through the NSF Louis Stokes Alliances for Minority Participation (NSF-LSAMP) Bridge to Doctorate fellowship program, will assist Native American doctoral students who wish to pursue a doctoral degree in a STEM-related field.

U of I’s College of Graduate Studies will administer the grant and recruit participating students for fall 2020 through a partnership with the All-Nations LSAMP program, which involves 25 tribal and higher educational institutions, including U of I.

Eleven Northwest tribes, all of which signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with U of I and are part of the president’s Native American Advisory Council, will also help with referrals and recruitment. The agreement was enacted to strengthen the relationships between the tribal sovereign nations, improve the quality of educational services and provide opportunities for Native American students while enriching U of I’s learning environment.

“Our relationships have allowed us to strategically focus our programming and services on Native American students who attend the University of Idaho,” said Yolanda Bisbee, executive director of tribal relations at U of I and co-lead on the grant.

“By incorporating culturally responsive support and outreach that is inclusive of traditional ways of learning and knowing, we are opening the doors for more Native students to attend U of I.”

Funding from the program will cover the first two years of the students’ doctoral programs. Assistantships and other fellowships will cover any remaining funding.

Jerry McMurtry, dean of the College of Graduate Studies and another co-lead on the grant, said students in the program choose their STEM-based fields study and then pair up with professors who have matching expertise in their chosen fields.

“We have a list of over 40 professors who are interested and willing to partner with incoming Bridge to Doctorate students,” McMurtry said.

Participating students and their program leaders will be encouraged to integrate traditional ecological knowledge, an indigenous way of seeing science and the environment, into their studies.

“We are pleased about this next opportunity,” Bisbee said. “There are many talented Native individuals who are ready to pursue their doctoral degrees with a specific focus on using their traditional ecological knowledge, which has been absent in traditional Western education.”

McMurtry said the program will increase the representation of Native American doctoral holders in the professorate, while another U of I-funded program, the NSF Alliance for Graduate Education for the Professoriate, will ensure the success of Native American graduate students through mentorships, field camps and other activities as they complete their STEM degrees.

“We are eager to bring more Native American students into our nationally recognized STEM programs,” U of I Provost and Executive Vice President John Wiencek said. “We benefit from their cultural research perspectives as we prepare them for future leadership roles in academia and their communities.”

This grant, titled “LSAMP BD: University of Idaho All-Nations LSAMP,” is funded by the National Science Foundation under Award Number 1906157. The total amount of federal funds for the project is $1,074,990, which amounts to 100 percent of the total cost of project.

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