Project Director: Philip Boudjouk

Project Description

This RII C2 proposal from North Dakota (ND) EPSCoR is focused on updating the network backbone links to four Tribal Colleges (TCs) in rural ND. The proposed upgrades will support over 2,000 students with an emphasis on video conferencing and extended workforce development opportunities.

The proposed CI improvements include: - Upgrades from 10 or 50 Mbps to 100 Mpbs for Cankdeska Cikana Community College (CCCC), Fort Berthold Community College (FBCC), Turtle Mountain Community College (TMCC), and the United Tribes Technical College (UTTC). - Deployment of video conferencing systems at the 4 tribal colleges.

Intellectual Merit The proposed upgrades in network connections will greatly improve the networking capacity available to the TCs. This enhanced access has the strong potential to enable additional research collaborations and teaching opportunities at the TCs. Research programs across the state will benefit from greater connectivity and opportunity to access and contribute to geophysical, environmental, and biodiversity databases. Links to the National Ecological Observatory Network (NEON) project will be pursued, as will Geographic Information System (GIS) mapping work in the region. Studying the regional environment will lead to new insights into the current biodistribution of different species of plans and animals, and how the environment is being affected by anthropogenic activities. Another research project will investigate digitally archiving Native American cultural artifacts and language preservation approaches. Distance learning methods will be studied to understand and share best practices in this context so other schools can leverage limited resources in a similar fashion.

Broader Impacts The proposed activity will promote teaching, training, and workforce development through investments in upgraded networking to rural regions and TCs. The improvements will have a significant impact on the Native American populations, and is envisioned to strongly encourage students to pursue careers in STEM as well as cyberinfrastructure (CI) related workforce training. The cultural aspects of the work are significant and far-reaching.

The TCs are the hubs for technology on the reservations, and as such, this investment will significantly affect a large community well beyond the researchers and educators involved in the project. Enabling tribal CI will help contribute to workforce development by preparing students and other members of the community to advance their job skills.

Project Report

NSF Award #1107748 – Final Outcomes Report, 08/15/2011 - 12/31/2014 Background, Activities and Accomplishments In August 2011, the National Science Foundation (NSF) awarded North Dakota an RII: Inter-Campus and Intra-Campus Cyber Connectivity award (C2) – Cyberconnectivity: Enhancing North Dakota Tribal College Research and Education." The key element of the award was to upgrade the cyberinfrastructure of four ND tribal colleges: Cankdeska Cikana Community College (CCCC), Fort Berthold Community College (FBCC), Turtle Mountain Community College (TMCC), and United Tribes Technical College (UTTC); to improve bandwidth to those campuses and to resolve audio and video feed delays. The goal of this project, which included North Dakota State University (NDSU) and the University of North Dakota (UND), was to improve connectivity between campuses by increasing bandwidth to a uniform 100 Mbps, and support the associated hardware and staff resources to insure an efficient implementation of that investment. Additional goals included: 1) Allowing ND C2 Consortium members to share instructional resources; 2) Network the ND C2 Consortium members and enhance their connection to national and international collaborators; 3) enhance institutional research and outreach capacity; and 4) improve workforce training programs. At the end of the grant, the external evaluator reported that the C2-funded improvements increased bandwidth to a uniform 100 Mbps as planned for each of the tribal campuses. Additionally, with the improved bandwidth, faculty and staff on those campuses reported enhanced teaching resources and student experiences. Finally, delays in audio and video feeds have been resolved. Collaboration Opportunities Cyberconnectivity Conference #1 – An initial conference, held on 04/16/2013, focused on providing updates on technical and network improvements from the C2 grant; an introduction to new research and education (R&E) resources for faculty and students available through access to Internet2 and regional R&E network colleagues; and introducing potential areas for collaboration among higher education institutions across the state. All of the C2 Tribal Colleges participated in the conference. Cyberconnectivity Conference #2 – A second conference, held on 04/17/2014, expanded discussions on specific areas of interest for collaborations, including the Master of Public Health program – American Indian specialization. Dr. Donald Warne, Director of the North Dakota Master of Public Health Program presented "American Indian Public Health as a Discipline: Opportunities to Expand Collaborations." Participants included four Tribal Colleges, UND’s National Resource Center on Native American Aging and NDSU’S Tribal College Partnership program, and NDSU’s Master of Public Health. Cyberconnectivity Conference #3 – The final conference, held on 12/05/2014, included presentations and roundtable discussions regarding grant outcomes and future collaboration plans. Participants discussed leveraging the expanded cyberinfrastructure capacity to participate in the recently awarded NSF Track-I ND EPSCoR grant: INSPIRE North Dakota. The Research Leads and co-Leads from both Track-1 centers presented at the conference. A portion of the agenda was also devoted to an update on the ND Statewide Technology Access for Government and Education network (STAGEnet). Additional participants included four Tribal Colleges, the North Dakota University System Office, and NDSU’s Tribal College Partnership program. Outcomes and Impacts Educational outcomes made possible by the C2 grant include: PEEC: 2+2+2+Infinity: Pipeline to Tribal Pre-engineering, National Ecological Observatory Network (NEON), and Access and Contributions to Archival Information of American Indian Communities. Additional opportunities, as outlined above, exist with the Master of Public Health Program – American Indian specialization. As a result of the increased bandwidth and the resolution of the audio and video latency, C2 funding will continue to enable future collaborations between these campuses that will foster faculty development and student learning. For example; as researchers from the Tribal Colleges join the NSF Track-1 research clusters, this network is instrumental in guaranteeing a consistent communication mechanism to enable all researchers to more fully and actively participate, regardless of location. Additional NSF Track-1 research collaborations are being identified. For example: Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) students located at the Tribal Colleges will be able to more actively participate with REU and Graduate Student Research Assistant (GSRA) students located at the NDSU and UND research clusters. Preliminary discussions are also underway to determine how faculty from both the Tribal and Research campuses might serve as guest instructors for each other for one-time events (e.g.: one lesson on a particular topic) or for extended periods (e.g.: to cover an instructor’s leave). As a result of C2 funding, these Tribal campuses are no longer bound by the infrastructure deficiencies that previously limited collaboration efforts. Grant activities were completed on 12/31/2015. Benefits from infrastructure investments include improved ability to collaborate with state, national, and international organizations; increased engagement of students in the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics communities; and student and other community member workforce development and job-skill advancement. With the new infrastructure in place, Tribal College instructors/researchers are better able to collaborate and share resources with worldwide colleagues.

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North Dakota State University Fargo
United States
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