MISSOULA – The University of Montana is the 26th top degree producer for Native American students in the nation, according to the Diverse: Issues in Higher Education list, “2014 Top 100 Degree Producers.”
The study names UM 40th in the nation for Natives receiving undergraduate degrees, 48th in the nation for master’s degrees, 19th for doctoral degrees and 12th for professional degrees. From summer 2013 to spring 2014, UM conferred 129 degrees upon Native American students.
The publication also listed UM 19th in the U.S. for master’s degrees awarded to Natives majoring in public administration and social service professions.
“This ranking shows our commitment to our Native American student population,” UM President Royce Engstrom said. “UM offers a welcoming, supportive environment to help Native students transition to college and succeed through graduation.”
Part of that environment includes The Payne Family Native American Center, the first facility in the nation built expressly to house a department of Native American studies, an American Indian student services office and other related campus programming. Completed in 2010, it accommodates the significant growth in the Native student population, as well as non-Native students taking courses in Native American studies.
Furthermore, the Native American center created an epicenter for tribal leaders from Montana, the region and the nation to gather, unite and address some of their common challenges. In addition, UM recently opened its new Elouise Cobell Land and Culture Institute, located inside the Payne Center, offering unprecedented technology and learning environments to UM students and the opportunity for collaborations with tribal colleges. It includes a round room that uses the same technology as the American Museum of Natural History and NASA, immersing viewers in an interactive display of the environment and the sky.
The space, named in honor of the Blackfeet leader whose class-action lawsuit against the U.S. government resulted in a $3.4 billion settlement in royalties owed to tribal members across the country, serves as a way for Cobell’s legacy of justice and equality to carry on for many years to come.
UM’s American Indian Student Services department, under new director Royelle Bundy, supports Native students in their transition, achievement and success at UM by providing services and programs that have been established through collaborative partnerships with various campus and Missoula community members.
Bundy said UM’s ranking from Diverse: Issues in Higher Education is a reflection of UM’s devotion to helping Native students succeed.
“This is, indeed, an important accomplishment for the University of Montana and something to be celebrated,” Bundy said. “It’s a testament to our community’s hard work and commitment to our Native American students.”
A unique program at UM, Indigenous Research and STEM Education, seeks to bring more Native American students into science, technology, engineering and mathematical fields. UM chemistry Associate Professor Aaron Thomas, a member of the Navajo Nation, directs the program, which also focuses on outreach to middle and high school students across Montana.
Recently, the UM Department of Psychology received a five-year, $1.2 million federal grant to continue its highly successful Indians Into Psychology (InPsych) Program, providing financial support and unique educational opportunities for Natives as they pursue degrees in clinical psychology.
Since the InPsych Program’s inception in 1998, UM has awarded eight doctorates in clinical psychology to Native students. Currently, seven Native graduate students are pursuing their doctorate degrees in clinical psychology at UM. Additionally, five participants in the undergraduate summer program have completed or are completing their doctorates at universities nationwide.
Each year, Diverse: Issues in Higher Education ranks the institutions that confer the most degrees upon minority students. For more information or to view the results online, visit http://diverseeducation.com/top100/.