Appendix F
American Indian Higher Education Consortium Statement on Engineering Initiatives at Tribal Colleges and Universities

American Indian Higher Education Consortium

121 Oronoco Street · Alexandria, Virginia 22314

(703) 838.0400 · Facsimile: (703) 838.0388

 

September 2005


The American Indian Higher Education Consortium enthusiastically supports efforts to improve engineering opportunities for American Indians. A well-prepared engineering workforce in Indian Country could stimulate engineering-related business development, as well as allow significantly more American Indians to compete for well-paying engineering jobs.


Over the past several years, a number of Tribal Colleges have become engaged in engineering education activities. For example, Southwest Indian Polytechnic Institute, Turtle Mountain Community College, and Oglala Lakota College have established strong pre-engineering programs in partnership with local universities with four-year engineering programs, to which their students transfer to complete their engineering degrees.


In addition to these ongoing initiatives, 11 Tribal Colleges recently organized a “TCU Engineering Working Group”, under the direction of a NASA Administrator’s Fellow assigned to Salish Kootenai College. The group hopes to develop pre-engineering and 4-year engineering programs at participating institutions. These colleges, together with NASA, other federal agencies, and partnering mainstream institutions, are to be commended for their efforts to establish engineering education opportunities at Tribal Colleges. By proceeding in a coordinated fashion, all Tribal Colleges and Universities can benefit from the collective knowledge and experience of the TCUs, their major partners, and other minority serving institutions that have gone through the process of planning for and developing engineering programs.


Without question, AIHEC is a strong advocate for collaboration and use of best practices, and the examples cited above demonstrate the high potential for success. However, with any collaborative initiative, AIHEC has an obligation to address some fundamental issues. Most important, if a significant investment is to be made, AIHEC must address the key issues of sustainability and parity. In short, can the initiative be sustained beyond initial funding, and can we ensure that the project will provide the opportunity for all interested TCUs to participate in its development, implementation, and ongoing support?


Some key issues that should be considered with respect to engineering education at TCUs include:



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Engineering Studies at Tribal Colleges and Universities Appendix F American Indian Higher Education Consortium Statement on Engineering Initiatives at Tribal Colleges and Universities American Indian Higher Education Consortium 121 Oronoco Street · Alexandria, Virginia 22314 (703) 838.0400 · Facsimile: (703) 838.0388   September 2005 The American Indian Higher Education Consortium enthusiastically supports efforts to improve engineering opportunities for American Indians. A well-prepared engineering workforce in Indian Country could stimulate engineering-related business development, as well as allow significantly more American Indians to compete for well-paying engineering jobs. Over the past several years, a number of Tribal Colleges have become engaged in engineering education activities. For example, Southwest Indian Polytechnic Institute, Turtle Mountain Community College, and Oglala Lakota College have established strong pre-engineering programs in partnership with local universities with four-year engineering programs, to which their students transfer to complete their engineering degrees. In addition to these ongoing initiatives, 11 Tribal Colleges recently organized a “TCU Engineering Working Group”, under the direction of a NASA Administrator’s Fellow assigned to Salish Kootenai College. The group hopes to develop pre-engineering and 4-year engineering programs at participating institutions. These colleges, together with NASA, other federal agencies, and partnering mainstream institutions, are to be commended for their efforts to establish engineering education opportunities at Tribal Colleges. By proceeding in a coordinated fashion, all Tribal Colleges and Universities can benefit from the collective knowledge and experience of the TCUs, their major partners, and other minority serving institutions that have gone through the process of planning for and developing engineering programs. Without question, AIHEC is a strong advocate for collaboration and use of best practices, and the examples cited above demonstrate the high potential for success. However, with any collaborative initiative, AIHEC has an obligation to address some fundamental issues. Most important, if a significant investment is to be made, AIHEC must address the key issues of sustainability and parity. In short, can the initiative be sustained beyond initial funding, and can we ensure that the project will provide the opportunity for all interested TCUs to participate in its development, implementation, and ongoing support? Some key issues that should be considered with respect to engineering education at TCUs include:

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Engineering Studies at Tribal Colleges and Universities 1. Sustainability Four-year engineering programs are costly to establish and maintain. Approval to offer a new program from regional and national accrediting agencies depends upon the demonstration that the requesting institution has the resources to maintain the program. Should funds be identified for establishing engineering programs, plans must be put in place for their continuation when the grants expire. 2. Institutional Preparedness and Impact Before establishing a major new program, an institution should engage all of their constituents – faculty, staff, students, and community members - in an exploration of the likely impact of the new program on the entire college community. For example, when a new program is established under a grant award, the institution should consider which programs they are willing to reduce or eliminate, if necessary, to keep the new program operating when start-up grant funding ends. 3. Pre-engineering Models As mentioned above, several tribal colleges have established strong pre-engineering programs in partnership with engineering departments at four-year institutions to which their students transfer to complete their engineering programs. There is a wide variety of engineering education models available that optimize engineering opportunities for students which each tribal college should consider in order to identify a model that is most appropriate for their institution. A comprehensive tribal college engineering initiative should ensure that the most appropriate option be adopted by each college. 4. Optimizing the Impact on all TCUs A high-profile, multiple federal agency-sponsored TCU engineering initiative necessarily requires a large investment and a certain amount of risk, both to the tribal colleges and their partners. To help ensure success, such an initiative should be based on a comprehensive strategic plan in which each participating TCU adopts the most locally appropriate, cost-effective engineering education approach, incorporating current best practices in engineering education, and in which the specific goals and expectations of each partner are both clearly identified and realistic. AIHEC’S Recommendation A comprehensive strategic plan should be developed by the TCUs, federal agency partners, and other engineering education stakeholders that would be the outcome of (a) individual institutional educational program planning and development processes; and (b) a collaborative program development plan, involving the sharing of distributed academic program resources across Tribal Colleges and Universities (TCUs) and their partners. A major focus of this comprehensive strategic plan would include the use of emerging technologies, particularly those associated with cyberinfrastructure, to provide access to distributed education and support services. AIHEC recommends that this comprehensive strategic plan be developed using a collaborative and inclusive planning process that engages all TCU engineering stakeholders, including the National Academy of Engineering, NASA and other federal agencies, and mainstream university engineering education and research programs. This will ensure that the resulting TCU engineering initiative will be maximally responsive to the needs of tribal college students, is well-grounded in current engineering education research and practice, and represents a strong

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Engineering Studies at Tribal Colleges and Universities and prudent investment on the part of the sponsoring agencies in the Tribal College Movement. AIHEC has submitted a proposal to NSF’s Engineering Education Program to fund this strategic planning effort. AIHEC’s Role As the sole national organization established by Tribal Colleges and Universities (TCUs), the American Indian Higher Education Consortium’s mission is to assist all TCUs in developing and sustaining high quality programs that will advance the educational, social, and cultural goals of their students and the communities in which they live. AIHEC provides advocacy, information, research, training, and technical support services in a wide range of areas, all of which are intended to help Tribal Colleges and Universities more effectively serve their communities.