The project, a collaboration between Southeastern and The Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma, with the support of the local public schools, provides support and training for 12 Native American students in completing a pre-service education program that leads to a Bachelor of Education degree.
Students receive additional training and support regarding Native American learning and culture. Participants receive full tuition, fees, books, childcare, laptop computers and living stipends. After graduating, the students teach in schools with at least a five percent Native American student population.
The grant comes from the United States Department of Education as part of the Office of Indian Education’s Professional Development program, which trains qualified individuals to become teachers and administrators in Indian communities.
Southeastern and the Choctaw Nation received the initial Native American Excellence In Education grant in 2005. This grant renewal will allow a new cohort of students to participate in the program.
“There is a large population of Native American students in Southeastern Oklahoma, and a disproportionate number of Native American teachers. The scholarships offered through this grant provide a tremendous opportunity to graduate teachers who can serve as role models to children of the same ethnicity,” Choctaw Nation Chief Gregory E. Pyle said.
“This grant demonstrates the strong partnership that exists between Southeastern and the Choctaw Nation, and the shared commitment to provide opportunities for a quality education,’’ said Dr. Larry Minks, interim president of Southeastern. “This program has already proven to be very successful and of great benefit to our students, schools and communities. It’s a win-win situation for everyone involved.’’
Serving as project director and principal investigator of the grant program is Chris Wesberry. Wesberry is an academic advisor who coordinates services in the Native American Center for Student Success. Co-principal investigators were Dr. Charles Weiner, assistant vice president for Academic Affairs, and Tim Boatmun, associate dean of Academic Services.
Involved in the original grant from the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma were John Jackson, Angel Rowland and Dana Buchanan.
The original students in the program are now teaching in schools in such places as Atoka, Battiest, Dale, Farris, Buffalo Valley, Kingston, Springer, McAlester, and Wilburton.
Southeastern is among education programs in seven states — Arizona, Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Oregon and South Dakota — to receive grants in the field of Native American education.
Southeastern has a long and successful history of providing higher education opportunities for Native American students.
The University service area covers significant parts of the Choctaw and Chickasaw Nations and partners with the tribes to provide specialized services for all Native American students.
Southeastern is among the national leaders in the percentage of graduates who are Native American.
According to “Diverse Issues In Higher Education’’ magazine, Southeastern ranks sixth in the nation in producing Native American graduates in all disciplines combined. Each year, the magazine publishes its top 100 rankings of minority graduates.
Southeastern also ranked high nationally in awarding degrees to Native American students in a number of disciplines:
3rd — Communication, Journalism and Related Programs
4th — Education
4th — Biological and Biomedical Sciences
6th — Psychology
6th — Visual and Performing Arts
8th — Computer and information Sciences & Support Services
10th — English Language and Literature/Letters
14th — Business, Management, Marketing and Related Support Services
19th — Social Sciences