A five-year $2 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education will be used for a number of initiatives to help Native American students at Southeastern Oklahoma State University.
The university’s enrollment is currently about 29 percent Native American, and the school’s Connect2Complete Project (C2C) will work to increase that number, increase graduation rates and retain current students.
The grant, announced by the school October 7, will be used to fund two new retention specialists and enhance the Native American collection at the Henry G. Bennett Memorial Library, as well as helping with professional development, mentorships and office renovations.
“Having a significant percentage of Native American students enrolled at Southeastern allowed us the opportunity to apply for this unique grant,” Chris Wesberry, Native American Center for Student Success (NACSS) coordinator and principal investigator for the project, said in a release. “With Native American student services at the heart of our proposal, we developed the Connect2Complete project. We are proud to have been the recipient of a grant that will have such a positive impact on so many students.”
NACSS is the hub of services for Native American students at Southeastern. There the school offers academic advisement and houses staff from the Choctaw and Chickasaw Nation Education and Vocational Rehabilitation departments.
Southeastern has a number of other services for Native students including a two-credit course for freshman designed to assist in the transition to college. According to the school’s website, “The course integrates Native culture and traditions into a curriculum designed to empower students and connect them to the university experience.”
Southeastern also has a Native American Council that meets weekly to address Native issues on campus and provide social interaction for Native students, and holds a Native American graduation reception every May for graduating Native students.
For Native American women, the school has the Miss Indian Southeastern event, which is held yearly to “recognize the strengths and contributions of Native American women on campus.”
And the C2C grant will only help to enhance the services offered to Native students. The grant is for five years and funding for the initial year is $399,014.