Salish Kootenai College (SKC) is a tribal college located on the Flathead Indian Reservation in western Montana. SKC currently offers 8 Bachelor's degree programs, 11 Associate's degree programs, and 7 Certificate of Completion programs. Typically, the student body size averages approximately 900-1000 students and between 50-100 Tribes are represented in any given academic year. This proposal is a renewal of an NIGMS RISE first awarded to SKC in 2006 (RISE I) that successfully developed and implemented an academically rigorous Associate of Science degree aimed at successful "2+2" matriculation of Native American students into the junior year at mainstream institutions and institutionalized a research culture at SKC. Building on the momentum of RISE I, SKC is requesting support for this RISE renewal (RISE II) with the following specific aims: 1) Engage students in a new, rigorous BS degree in Life Science that allows students to develop knowledge and skills required for advancement towards graduate programs, and 2) Increase the retention and academic success of American Indian students in tracks leading to PhD degrees in biomedical. Components of this new degree will include strong academic and social integration activities, both of which have been shown to be important in underrepresented minorities succeeding in the sciences. These include: inquiry-based coursework using recognized educational best practices, comprehensive research lab experience with intensive one-on-one student mentoring, development of critical thinking, presentation skills, and participation in national science meetings, all within the cultural framework of a tribal college that promotes program retention. Working in concert with this RISE II proposal are other, synergistic SKC programs, such as a new NSF-STEEP award to develop a BS (Secondary Education) to train Native high school science teachers and an ongoing NSF TCUP that has contributed to the development of both the BS (LS) and BS (Computer Engineering) programs. This proposal also includes a comprehensive evaluation plan to track the success of the program. This will be the first biological science-based Bachelor's degree to be offered at a tribal college and its support is critical to increasing numbers of Native students entering bioscience PhD programs at mainstream institutions.
This project seeks funds to support a new BS (Life Sciences) degree program at Salish Kootenai College (SKC), a tribal college on the Flathead Reservation in Montana. Support of this project will increase the numbers of Native Americans entering into and completing biomedical PhD programs. This will provide a pipeline for trained professionals culturally competent to address issues of health (diabetes, heart disease, obesity) among underserved, Native populations.