The Washington Internship for Native Students, established under the auspices of American University?s Washington Semester Program, was developed in response to the White House Initiative to help American Indian and Alaskan Native students develop knowledge and leadership skills necessary to enhance their potential to contribute to their communities on reservations, and the nation. Having access to a significant pool of American Indian and Alaskan Native students, the program focuses on experiential learning by coupling internships with coursework and ensuring that traditional values and practices of sovereign nations and tribes are intermingled in the program. WINS will continue to collaborate with the National Science Foundation to provide internship placements for American Indian and Alaskan Native students, a group of students sorely under-represented in the STEM workforce. It is anticipated as a result of this effort, the NSF will serve as a conduit to broaden participation of this under-represented group, and diversify the future STEM enterprise, needed to keep the US competitive in a global environment.

Project Report

and the National Science Foundation (NSF) fostered American Indian/Alaska Native/Native Hawaiian (AI/AN/NH) student interns’ intellectual development and professional skills in order to contribute to communities on reservations, across the US, and around the world. WINS provided a distinctive experiential education program that received a special award, due to support from NSF as well as other federal agencies. In March 2012, WINS won the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) Public Sector Leadership Award, the organization’s prestigious Indian Country Leadership recognition. According to NCAI, "WINS plays a critical role in building a pipeline of young Native leaders who are prepared to lead Indian Country in the new era of nation-to-nation relations… WINS alumni now hold key positions in the federal government and myriad national Native organizations..." Thus, WINS NSF support has contributed to a strong impact on students' educations and their intellectual development as well as the ability to achieve professional success. Research highlights the positive outcomes of a program such as WINS, targeting the American Indian/Alaska Native/Native Hawaiian community. High-Impact Educational Practices: What They Are, Who Has Access to Them, and Why They Matter, by George D. Kuh (AAC&U, 2008) backs-up the claim that experiential education has positive, measurable results for students in STEM and other areas. Kuh wrote, "engaging in educationally purposeful activities helps level the playing field, especially for students from low-income family backgrounds and others who have been historically underserved. Moreover, engagement increases the odds that any student…will attain his or her educational and personal objectives, acquire the skills and competencies demanded by the challenges of the twenty-first century, and enjoy the intellectual and monetary gains associated with the completion of the baccalaureate degree." (p 22) [1] WINS offered a form of high-impact practice that enables American Indian/Alaska Native/Native Hawaiian student success by opening doors for those of diverse backgrounds. In sum, WINS equalized opportunities for students to gain access to experience at NSF. WINS professors followed the AU academic regulations for assessing internships. AU Professors performed evaluations of experiential learning, due to their knowledge about the subject matter and understanding of the basis for the granting of college credit. Each internship course did the following for each WINS NSF student: Assisted students in having a successful educational experience at their internship sites. Explored common challenges and opportunities in the workplace including diversity, communication strategies, and interpersonal dynamics. Identified skill sets helpful to or necessary to career achievement and success in the fields of each student – reflecting the areas emphasized by NSF. Assisted students in connecting theories and knowledge gained in seminar classes with their "real world" experiences. Explored relationships between academia and practice. Identified diverse careers and career paths in STEM and other areas. Further, the internship course outcomes were as follows. Each student did the following: Demonstrated professional skills such as resume writing, cover letter writing, job searching, and networking. Articulated understanding of how to be successful in diverse and complex workplace environments. Presented a self-analysis of what was learned from the internship experience and course including evaluation of strengths and weaknesses, as well as growth in content knowledge of the field. Connected theories and knowledge gained in seminar classes with "real world" experiences. Explored relationships between academia and practice. In their reflective assignments for assessment students made these connections. Each summer, WINS classes illustrate diversity with approximately 50 different majors from Advertising to Urban & Regional Planning. Of the participants, on average 20% majored in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics each summer. In addition, WINS students were members of over 30 tribes and hailed from more than 20 states and 50 colleges each summer term. A WINS/NSF student wrote recently, "Thank you and WINS so much for the opportunity to explore new territory, meet new mentors, and network with great Native American people and scientists" with the NSF internship. The continued funding allowed WINS to encourage alumni development. For example, after WINS Ronald Faram went on to earn his graduate degree in dentistry is practicing healthcare for his tribe, Cherokee Nation WW Hastings Hospital, a Medical Group Practice located in Tahlequah, Oklahoma. The on-going WINS NSF grant furthered the networking and benefits that have an impact on WINS interns such as Ronald. WINS/NSF Summary WINS and NSF provided an excellent professional, academic, and cultural experience for emerging American Indian and Alaska Native STEM leaders from around the country. The continued grant from NSF furthered this legacy for WINS STEM students. Drawing upon the accomplishments of past programs and a long history of successful collaborations with other federal agencies, WINS continues to make an impact on future scientific leaders through a partnership with NSF. [1]

National Science Foundation (NSF)
Office of International and Integrative Activities (IIA)
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Sherrie Green
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American University
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