Oklahoma Higher Education Campus E-Clips sponsored by the Communicators Council

October 2011

NEO A&M, Southeastern Receive $2 Million Federal Grant to Assist Native American Students and Programs


Enhancing the academic success of Native American students is the goal of a nearly $2 million federal grant received by Northeastern Oklahoma A&M College and Southeastern Oklahoma State University.

The five-year, $1,995,623 Title III grant was awarded by the U.S. Department of Education.

For the second time in less than a year, Northeastern Oklahoma A&M College received grant to help serve Native American students.

The grant will provide funding to develop three programs for online degrees: hospitality management, early childhood education and criminal justice.

These programs were identified, based on projected growth statistics from the Oklahoma Employment Security Division and through discussions with local tribes.

“What we have proposed to do through the grant application is to bring these three degree programs 100 percent online, and that will be in addition to our on-campus options that have proven very successful,” said NEO A&M President Dr. Jeff Hale.

Hale said the program is not limited to Native American students, but Native American students will be the focus.

NEO was selected because there is ample opportunity for students to earn bachelor’s degrees online through area four-year schools in those fields.

A survey conducted in fall 2010 found that 95 percent of NEO students have reliable access to the Internet and 77 percent have access on their cellular phone or other mobile device.Students majoring in the identified programs indicated a strong preference for online courses.

The grant will fund professional development of faculty and will allow the school to hire three full-time staff: distance education developer, online technology specialist and project analyst/assistant, as well as a program director.

Laptop computers and tablet devices will be utilized.

“Our intent is to be able to make new technology, whether it be the Ipads or the smart phones, more readily available to our student and faculty populations,” Hale said. “When you think about the possibilities created via a $2,000,000 grant, I think the College and local tribes can cover a great deal of important technology.”

Hale received word of the grant from the office of Congressman Dan Boren. “They informed us that NEO was going to be one of a select few colleges and universities in the United States to receive another $2 million Title III grant,” Hale said.

“I am pleased that NEO will receive this funding to improve its services to Native American students,” Boren said in a statement. “A fifth of NEO’s students are Native American, and the vast majority of these students are recipients of Pell Grants. This funding will help NEO increase its capacity to serve Native American and low-income students through a program named ‘Merging Tradition and Technology to Create Access to High-Demand Careers.”

“This program tailors classes to fit the specific needs of these students, who are an integral part of Northeastern Oklahoma,” Boren said.

No bricks or mortar will be used with the new project, unlike the previous Title III grant.

In October 2010, NEO A&M was one of only seven schools nationwide to receive a Title III grant, which was used to establish a Native American Success and Cultural Center on campus.

“I think it is wonderful that Northeastern Oklahoma A&M College and the tribes can partner together again,” said John Froman, Chief of the Peoria Tribe. “The new grant provides opportunities to our Native population at the College by providing the students access to advanced technology, thus bettering their chance at obtaining jobs in hospitality, law enforcement and other fields in the workforce.”

Funds from the most recent grant will be used to improve online classes and incorporate Native Ways of Knowing to align curriculum with the needs of NEO’s large Native American student population.

Dr. Linda Sue Warner, NEO’s special assistant to the president on American Indian Education, will work closely with grant staff and NEO faculty on the re-design of online courses. Warner has previously published several journal articles about the NWOK pedagogy.

The NWOK pedagogy is interdisciplinary and places emphasis on interaction and relevance of course content.

The grant will fund equipment needed to stream live course content to mobile Internet devices.

To support distance learners, the grant will allow NEO to develop an online technology assessment and orientation, online tutoring programs to address remedial needs, online advising and secure wireless network cameras for the monitoring of early childhood lab requirements in local childcare facilities.

Hale cited the work of Warner, Rachel Lloyd, director of the Center for Academic Success and Advising, and Emilee Truelove, project director for Title III and NEO’s American Indian Center for Excellence.

Chris Wesberry, Native American Center for Student Success coordinator, was principal investigator for the project, and Tim Boatmun, associate dean for academic services, was co-principal investigator. Also assisting in writing the proposal was Paul Buntz, grant coordinator-writer.

The “Connect2Complete (C2C) Project” will strive to bolster the retention rates and graduation rates of Native American students at Southeastern. Currently, approximately 29 percent of Southeastern’s enrollment is comprised of Native Americans.

Southeastern president Larry Minks acknowledged the support of members of the U.S. Congressional delegation from Oklahoma, including Rep. Dan Boren, Rep. Tom Cole, Sen. James Inhofe, and Sen. Tom Coburn.

“Our Congressional delegation is to be commended for its support of higher education,” Minks said. “This project will certainly complement the many existing programs we have in place through our Native American Center for Student Success. We are very proud of the history and heritage that the Native American students have played throughout the course of the University’s existence. I also want to recognize Chief Gregory Pyle of The Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma and Governor Bill Anoatubby of the Chickasaw Nation for their continued support of the University’s initiatives. For many years, they have partnered with Southeastern to ensure a better learning environment for all students.”

The C2C project will fund two new positions – retention specialists – with Wesberry serving as project director and Boatmun as co-director. In addition to strengthening the retention and graduation rates through additional admissions and advising services, the project includes such components as enhancing the Native American collection in the Henry G. Bennett Memorial Library, professional development, mentorships, and office renovations.

"Having a significant percentage of Native American students enrolled at Southeastern allowed us the opportunity to apply for this unique grant,” Wesberry said. “With Native American student services at the heart of our proposal, we developed the Connect2Complete project. We are proud to have been the recipient of a grant that will have such a positive impact on so many students.”

“I feel honored and humbled to be part of such a transformative project at our University," Boatmun said. “This grant award reflects the tremendous commitment of Dr. Minks and our tribal partners to student success. Under Chris Wesberry’s leadership, Southeastern will have the preeminent Native American student services program in the country.”

The University’s efforts have not gone unnoticed nationally. In its 2011-12 special college issue, “Winds of Change” magazine rated Southeastern second in the nation in two categories: “Top 5 Colleges for American Indians by percent of Bachelor’s degrees” (4-year weighted average of 23.9%), and “Top 5 Colleges for American Indians by percent of full-time undergraduates” (27.1%).

Earlier this year, Southeastern earned high marks from "Diverse Issues In Higher Education" magazine. Each year, the magazine publishes its top 100 rankings of minority graduates.

According to the latest rankings, Southeastern is sixth in the nation in awarding undergraduate degrees to Native American graduates in all disciplines combined. In addition, Southeastern is ranked 17th nationally in awarding master’s degrees in all disciplines.

In the undergraduate rankings, Southeastern was ranked in the top 10 in nine different majors; in the master’s category, Southeastern was ranked in the top 10 in two majors.

Southeastern held the top three rankings on the undergraduate list in Engineering Technologies and Engineering-related fields (Occupational Safety & Health), Education, and Psychology. In the master’s degrees rankings, Southeastern was ranked first in Engineering Technologies and Engineering-related fields (Occupational Safety & Health), and second in Engineering (Aerospace Administration & Logistics).

Regarding the C2C grant, the total cost of the program will be financed with Federal money. It will provide services to students and facility improvements over a five-year period. The funding for the initial year is $399,014.

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