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NDSU, tribal colleges collaborate for NSF grant

A collaboration of North Dakota universities and colleges has been awarded a $4.8 million grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) for a five-year program to improve the diversity and education of engineering graduates in the state.

The North Dakota collaboration connects NDSU with Cankdeska Cikana Community College, Turtle Mountain Community College, Sitting Bull College and Ft. Berthold Community College. The title of North Dakota’s proposal was “PEEC: 2+2+2+Infinity: Pipeline for Tribal Pre-Engineering to Society (PTiPS).”

The collaboration, one of only four in the nation, is part of an NSF initiative called “Pre-Engineering Education Collaboration” established to bring four-year engineering schools together with tribal colleges to develop methods to attract, prepare and support under-represented American Indian students for a career in one of the engineering disciplines.

“The heart of the proposal is the interaction of tribal high school, tribal college, mainstream university and engineering profession stakeholders to facilitate recruitment, education and support of tribal students to acquire and hone the skills that allow them to enter the engineering profession or contribute in some other fashion to their communities and the nation,” said Robert Pieri, NDSU tribal college partnership coordinator and principal investigator. G. Padmanabhan, professor of civil engineering, is co-principal investigator.

Under the program, students from reservations begin their studies at a local tribal college and then transfer to a collaborating four-year institution to complete their studies and gain useful experience through professors, professional societies and co-op experiences.

According to Pieri, the collaboration supports a tribal college vision of expanded life-choices for reservation residents and the opportunity for personal and tribal advancement without loss of cultural heritage. He said NDSU benefits by expanded participation of culturally diverse students, shared fulfillment of the land-grant mission, improved faculty-student communication interaction and expansion of the talent pool entering Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) professions.

Pieri said the program includes a “conceptual curriculum” that will address access to remedial work, use of cohorts, flexibility in the approach to courses and relevance to local communities.

Other NSF funded collaborations came from South Dakota, Wisconsin and Hawaii.


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