A goal of the Tribal Colleges and Universities Program (TCUP) is to increase the science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) instructional and research capacities of specific institutions of higher education that serve the Nation's indigenous students. Expanding the research capacity at these institutions expands the opportunities for students to pursue challenging, rewarding careers in STEM fields, provides for research studies in areas that may be locally relevant, and encourages a faculty community to look beyond the traditional classroom for intellectual and professional growth. This project aligns directly with that goal, and moreover may prove to be a model for similar engagement at other small community colleges.
The project creates intensive research-based training courses in the life sciences for students and faculty, using zebrafish as a versatile model organism for classroom experiments. In Aim 1, a series of courses will be created, in partnership between faculty at tribal colleges (A'aniiih Nakoda College, Chief Dull Knife College, Little Big Horn College, and Fort Peck Community College) and research faculty at Montana State University-Bozeman (MSU). Each set of course curricula will reflect issues relevant to the specific faculty, students, and community. Aim 2, through week-long intensive courses, lays the foundation for tribal college faculty to develop or enhance their research mindset and skills to mentor undergraduate research endeavors at their respective colleges. Collaboration between tribal college faculty and the MSU scientists will continue to support tribal college faculty as they develop new, or enhance existing research projects and research-based courses. Aim 3 proposes that students will attend courses and then participate as student TAs for deeper engagement with the research mindset. Offering these courses at the tribal colleges allows students to attend the courses within their communities and permits these courses to act as stepping stones for future endeavors, including research programs at their tribal colleges and programs at 4-year universities like MSU.