Sloan Grant Helps Recruit American Indian Grad Students to the University of Arizona

Sloan Grant Helps Recruit American Indian Grad Students to the University of Arizona


      A three-year grant program aimed at helping recruit more American Indian graduate students to the University of Arizona’s science and engineering programs has helped, administrators say.

      Not only do administrators hope that the grant from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation will be renewed soon, they also hope the funding will be increased to $1.4 million from the original $1 million.

      The university’s Sloan partnership is the first program in the country geared to American Indian graduate students in the sciences. It offers $15,000 a year for master’s students and $36,000 total for doctoral students.

      American Indians have historically been the most underrepresented minority group in all of higher education, with especially low numbers of science and engineering students — and even lower numbers at the graduate level.

      Maria Teresa Velez, associate dean of the Graduate College, says that before the Sloan grant there were six American Indian students in graduate science programs at UA. Now, there are 13 master’s students and 11 doctoral students. The Sloan students represent 12 tribes.

      “We think Native Americans are unlike other minority groups because they have a greater tendency to go back to their own communities to help out,” Velez says.

      “If they want to be professors, great, they’re desperately needed. If they want to become leaders in government, great, they’re desperately needed. If they want to return to their communities, great, they’re desperately needed,” she says. “We need them in any and every capacity.”

      The coordinator of the UA/Sloan Native American Partnership, Donna R. Treloar, says recruitment is the most difficult part of the program because there are so few eligible students.

      Danielle Ignace, 27, is a doctoral student in ecology and evolutionary biology, studying how climate change affects both native and nonnative grass species. Originally from Wisconsin, Ignace earned a master’s from UA and wasn’t sure she’d pursue a doctorate until the Sloan program came along.

      “It’s huge. For me, it’s definitely one of the reasons I stayed in my program,” she says. “It’s so supportive academically and financially. It’s had a great impact on everybody.”

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