This continuing project is submitted on behalf of a consortium of institutions including Montana State University-Bozeman and Montana's Tribal Colleges: Blackfeet Community College, Chief Dull Knife College, Aaniih Nakoda College (formerly Fort Belknap College), Fort Peck Community College, Little Big Horn College, Salish Kootenai College, and Stone Child College that was established in 1983. The specific goal of the American Indian Research Opportunities (AIRO) consortium is to enhance existing partnerships with Montana Tribal Colleges in order to strengthen competiveness of Native science graduates and science programs leading to matriculation of more Native American students in four year baccalaureate programs in biomedical and behavioral science degrees and ultimately an increase in these students graduating in these career fields. The AIRO Bridges project will focus on the achieving the following aims: (1) Build collaboration and cooperation between tribal college and MSU faculty by facilitating trainings and workshops, enhancing research capabilities of tribal college partners, and sharing and aligning curriculum between institutions (including research methodology and responsible conduct of research courses). Project objectives include a) Offer two workshops per year for tribal college faculty to come together to work on courses and curriculum (two from each tribal college for a total of 14 faculty);b) Provide monies for tribal college faculty to develop their research capacity through training, travel, salary release time and/or equipment ($4000 per year);c) Provide MSU research faculty opportunities to travel to each tribal college (7 research talks;one at each tribl college.) (2) Provide opportunities for Native American students at all institutions to develop as cohort of scientists through in person networking, electronic social networks and video teleconference (Skype) methods. (3) Develop critical thinking and research skills of tribal college students through an 8 week summer research experience at a 4-year institute in biomedical and behavioral science research, including providing academic skills enrichment opportunities for tribal college students such as instruction in study skills, time management, content enrichment (within the research project), and writing. Project objectives for specific aim 2 and 3 include: a) Develop regular electronic networking space (once a month) for student use between institutions (Facebook, Skype, Videoconferencing);b) Recruit 15 students for summer research experience at MSU and SKC (now a four-year baccalaureate granting institution);c) Increase research and academic capabilities of students through summer research experiences;d) Transfer 75% of students to 4-year degree programs in biomedical and behavioral sciences disciplines;e) Increase graduation rate of Bridges students to meet MSU campus rate for Native American students (35%);f) Provide Native American science students with one regional opportunity to present research and network face-to-face. In the last nine years, MSU's AIRO NIH funded Bridges programs have transferred 66 percent of participating tribal college students to 4-year degree programs and graduated 24 percent of these students. By focusing efforts on these expanded specific aims, the goals of a 75% transfer rate and 35% graduation rate are attainable.
This research education project will increase the pool of Native American (underrepresented) students successfully transferring from partner tribal colleges and graduating from 4-year academic programs in the biomedical and behavioral science fields. The project will foster the existing consortium of institutions in order to strengten the science programs and therefore the science graduates from these programs. The American Indian Research Opportunities (AIRO) consortium efforts are important in the effort to address significant health disparities in Native American communities such as incidence of cancer, heart disease, stroke and diabetes. Ultimately, as a result of the AIRO Bridges program, more Native American people will be educated in biomedical and behavioral science disciplines and be able to work in health related fields to address the health disparities among their people.