Spokane Tribal College, an institution that specializes in providing a culturally appropriate higher education for Native American students in eastern Washington state, has expanded its facilities to accommodate a larger population of American Indians living in Spokane, Wash.
The second campus is located on the grounds of Gonzaga University, providing the tribal college with access to some 13,000 American Indians living in Spokane.
The tribal college is offering six courses, credit for which can be transferred to Gonzaga should students decide to pursue a four-year degree, says Raymond Reyes, associate vice president for diversity at Gonzaga University.
“The idea is as the need and interest among tribal students grows so will the availability of the courses,” he said.
“I introduced the idea a couple of years ago as a solution to the financial and enrollment problems that the tribal college was having. They wanted to increase enrollment and become more financially viable. However, the bulk of Native Americans were in the city not on the reservation. Enrollment and finances go hand to glove.
Reyes says Gonzaga benefits from the partnership as much as the tribal college.
“If we want to increase diversity in our students, body the best way to do so would be to partner with tribal colleges. There are 10 Indian reservations with in a 200 mile radius of Spokane,” Reyes says, noting that of Gonzaga’s 4,150 student, 60 are self-identified American Indians.
At a reception last month on the Gonzaga campus, Dr. Martina Whelshula, president of Spokane Tribal College, thanked Gonzaga University for offering the classroom space and spoke of her own college experience.
“To be in a classroom where your people, your values and your history are not reflected in the curriculum is off center. It’s our culture that guides us and grounds us and what makes us unique. Spokane Tribal College is grounded in an indigenous cultural framework and environment that honors who we are. It’s going to be an awesome resource to us and our students,” said Whelshula, according to a quote in Indian Country Today.
Spokane Tribal College’s vision is to provide Native students with a supportive environment where their background is understood and respected and where they can begin college with a positive experience.
Dr. Thayne McCulloh, interim academic vice president at Gonzaga University, talked of the foundational mission of his university, which is now celebrating its 120th year. “It began with the idea of service to peoples native to this region. I think it’s very significant that we’re meeting here today. I hope you see yourselves as related to us. We look forward to many year of re-imagining together.”
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