Abstract

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Much effort is made by universities to recruit Native students to enroll in higher education. However, more resources and programs are needed to help these students once they begin their college career.  One of the major challenges for Native students is the successful completion of their first year of higher education.  The Montana Native Undergraduate Transition Program will help students through their first year of college through a summer bridge program to help them transition as an undergraduate.

The Indigenous Research and STEM Education program at the University of Montana implemented its summer bridge program the summer of 2014 and 2015 with seven students each year that attended UM and other tribal colleges in the state.  They took classes in Math, Writing, and Study Skills as well as attended workshops to help make a smoother transition to college life and know where to go if help is needed.  Originally, we hoped to host 15 students that first year and 12 the second, but have been able to only attract 7 students each year.  Despite the lower number of students, we feel this is program has been very helpful to the students that attend and is a good beginning. 

The retention rate for Native American students at the University of Montana is very low compared to the general population - about 14 percentage points lower than the general student retention rates, on average. Only 25% of Native students acquire their degree in 6 years that begin as freshman at UM.  The retention and graduate rates for students in STEM fields that would potentially enter the health professions is even worse that the rates shown for all Native students above.  The primary inhibitor for Native students in completing their degrees, especially in STEM, is the math requirement.  This is not only true at the University of Montana, but math is also an issue at Montana State and at the tribal colleges.  The writing proficiency of freshman Native students is also below what is needed to successfully complete the required English and other writing classes.  A summer bridge program is then proposed to help Native students get a head start on their math and English the summer before their freshman year.  A summer bridge program will help Native students make the transition from high school to college by addressing the academic, cultural, and social changes that students encounter upon entering higher education.  This summer bridge program will be open to any student in the state that would need some extra academic training before attending the University of Montana, Montana State University, or any of the state’s Tribal Colleges.

The primary goal is to help Native students successfully complete their first year of college.

Specific Aims

  1. Prepare students academically and culturally in transitioning from high school to higher education. This will be achieved through classes, workshops, and community events.
  2. Specific Aim #2: Build a community of Native students across the state.  This aim will be accomplished through cohort training, housing on campus, and weekend activities with the students.

Primary Contact

Aaron Thomas aaron.thomas@umontana.edu