Summit focuses on Native American students, communities

Leaders of educational institutions and tribal nations from around the state converged in the High Country Conference Center at NAU this week to discuss ways institutions and tribes may better contribute to student success.

The event marked the third annual Summit of Arizona Community College and Indian Nations and Tribes and brought together numerous organizations and colleges including representatives from all three state universities.

Jacob Moore, president of the Arizona Board of Education and managing partner at Generation Seven Strategic Partners, said while tribal communities are partners to help recruit and retain Native American students in higher education, colleges and universities also can contribute to the tribal lands students call home.

“Universities and community colleges respond to workforce development to meet the needs of businesses and communities,” Moore said. “Institutions have partnerships to create a workforce to sustain an area. Tribal nations control one-third of the state’s resources, so we must train our young people to manage those resources while graduating students in a culturally-sensitive environment.”

An example of such collaboration is occurring on the Alamo Navajo Reservation, where a new project is teaching young adults how to manage forest land south of Albuquerque and providing immediate, tangible benefits to the individuals, the community and the environment.

NAU President John Haeger noted the university’s partnerships throughout the region bring education and workforce training to many rural residents.

“Northern Arizona University has demonstrated its commitment to student success and sustainable practices that benefit the economy and the environment while incorporating Native American cultures and values,” Haeger said. “We are pleased to host a summit that welcomes important conversations about how higher education is an asset for students as well as their communities and the state.”

NAU ranked among the top universities in the nation for bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees earned by Native American students as reported in Diverse Issues in Higher Education.

Northern Arizona University will open the Native American Cultural Center in the fall, a facility that will house Native American student support services for recruitment and retention, and serve as a central point for Native groups on campus and programs involving NAU and tribal nations.