The University of North Texas announced that it will partner with Haskell Indian Nations University in Lawrence, Kan., and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to build a diverse workforce that can meet the country’s environmental demands.
Haskell is one of only two federally owned and operated schools in the United States dedicated to higher education of American Indians, according to the Bureau of Indian Education. The university enrolls about 1,000 students each semester.
UNT and EPA have worked together previously to address the importance of indigenous students pursuing degrees in environmental science. UNT served as the U.S. site earlier this year for the Second Annual International Indigenous Youth Video Conference on the Environment. This year’s focus was on environmental protection and indigenous culture in an age of climate change.
The institutions pledged to work together to increase the number of American Indian students pursuing professional careers in environmental fields, including policy, economics and science.
“This new partnership expands the long tradition our university has had in working with the EPA to find solutions to some of our nation’s most pressing environmental and societal problems,” UNT President Gretchen M. Bataille said. “It also provides American Indian students with the opportunity to further their commitment to environmental research and education, which is critical for sustainability within tribal culture.”
The agreement establishes a direct track for graduates of Haskell to continue graduate studies in environmental sciences at UNT, where they will have the opportunity to earn master’s and doctoral degrees. EPA will provide guidance on student employment and volunteer programs, collaboration on research opportunities, lectures and seminars on environmental issues and outreach to local, tribal, national and international communities.
“Working effectively with communities is so important in improving the environmental status of our country,” said Jonathan Hook, director of the Office of Environmental Justice and Tribal Affairs at the EPA’s Region 6 Headquarters.
Hook said he envisions program graduates returning to their respective tribes and assuming professional positions in environmental programs. There, graduates will be able to integrate academic and tribal knowledge of the environment with traditional ways of life.
“Having people who are knowledgeable about the environment is vital to addressing community needs,” said Hook.
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