Education partnership fosters future Native American engineers
A month ago, 18-year old Ryan Brown didn’t have a clue what the engineering term “surveying” meant. But today Brown knows how to survey three different ways.
Brown is one of eight Native American students getting a head start toward his dream of becoming an engineer thanks to a new program called the Pre-Engineering Education Collaborative.
The collaborative, funded by a $4.8 million National Science Foundation Grant, connects NDSU with four North Dakota tribal colleges to prepare and support Native American students who want to pursue an engineering career. The ultimate goal is to improve the diversity and education of engineering graduates in the state.
Under the collaborative, students begin their studies in a pre-engineering program at one of the participating tribal colleges – Cankdeska Cikana Community College, Turtle Mountain Community College, Sitting Bull College and Ft. Berthold Community College – then transfer to NDSU to complete their studies.
To facilitate the transition, program coordinators developed a supplemental 12-day summer session at NDSU July 25-Aug. 5. The students learned how to survey, took math classes and worked with Computer Aided Design and Drafting technology. They also had professional development sessions, discussing everything from how to balance work and school to money management.
Brown, who graduated from Devils Lake (N.D.) High School in May and is enrolled in pre-engineering at Cankdeska Cikana Community College this fall, says the summer program has been challenging, but worth it. “Some people think its tough; no one is used to calculus one and two. It’s a little hard, but if you pay attention, you can get through it … the teacher is great. I highly recommend coming here. If you plan on going into engineering, this is a good head start for the young people.”
Another student, Maloni Fox, encourages students to take part. “It’s a really cool learning experience. What it does is introduces us to a bigger campus and shows us what we’re going to be doing.”
For Robert Pieri, NDSU tribal college partnership coordinator, the program is about sharing opportunities, which relates back to NDSU’s land-grant mission. “The reason the partnership makes sense is our missions are compatible … we’re supporting each other to develop that expertise. There’s a need at the tribal college. We can answer that need. So let’s work together to do that.”
NDSU’s collaboration is one of only four programs in the nation. It started in August 2010 and will continue five years. Other National Science Foundation funded collaborations are in South Dakota, Wisconsin and Hawaii.