Indigenous Program for STEM Research and a Regional Native Network of Graduate Education: A National Research and Educational Model
The underrepresentation of American Indian people in graduate level science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) research and education is an issue that must be addressed in order to safeguard the future of Native American communities and Nations, and to ensure a viable, healthy, national STEM workforce. This project creates a national program for Indigenous STEM Research and Graduate Education (ISTEM) that has a focus of a Regional Native Network (RN2) of nine institutions of higher education. Led by the University of Idaho, ISTEM aims to increase the number of Native American students obtaining Masters and PhD degrees in STEM fields.
The ISTEM program is a unique national program that provides comprehensive STEM graduate training to address the needs and desires of Native American peoples. In consultation with tribal communities and a Native American national advisory board, ISTEM addresses the specific needs of both Native American graduate students and their tribes through a collaborative approach (RN2) to recruitment, research design, and retention of STEM graduate students. During the project period, ISTEM is partially experimental with ongoing program modifications based on assessment.
Many components of the ISTEM curriculum and programmatic structure are drawn from existing models that have been effective in the training of graduate students from underrepresented minority populations. The program will incorporate both accepted and experimental components, including: (1) new modalities of teaching and learning that have American Indian input; (2) collaborative, interdisciplinary research based on a cohort model of students interacting with stakeholders; and (3) situating STEM into social and cultural contexts so that the theory of knowledge is woven into good teaching and learning. The results of the program will inform future program design in graduate STEM education, and encourage research into delivering more effective graduate education to underrepresented segments of the population.
The ISTEM program is focused on the creation of a core of STEM professionals from an underrepresented group, namely American Indian peoples of the United States. The program directly benefits society by providing American Indian scholars access to research facilities and methodologies for exploring ongoing issues of concern to tribal and Native American lands and peoples. Additionally, ISTEM is advancing STEM discovery and understanding through RN2, its collaborative, stakeholder-centric approach to research and education design. The ISTEM concept is scalable and adaptable to other regions of the country, and will be sustained by partner campuses once the project ends.