While the number of Native American and Indigenous students on college campuses has increased over the last few decades, this fact only presents a fragmented understanding of the reality of these students in higher education. Even across the five UConn campuses that are full of hundreds of faces from around the globe, the feeling of isolation is often experienced by Native American and Indigenous students who make up only 1% of the university’s student population. For some, who are the first in their family to attend higher education, the challenges they encounter are even more overwhelming.
It is important to remember that you are not alone. Many others are going through the same challenges and sharing some of the same feelings as you. Creating a network of support with others with similar experiences and seeking mentoring relationships can be very beneficial and help to ease and make the most out of the years you spend in school.
Although it can often be difficult to find resources as a Native American and Indigenous student, resources committed to your success are available both inside and outside of UConn.
Aside from the Native American and Indigenous Studies Minor, you will find the Native American Cultural Programs (NACP), which gear towards helping Native and Indigenous students succeed throughout their years in college by “educating our surrounding UConn community on our histories, cultures, traditional ways of life & more.”
A student-led organization created with the purpose of spreading representation to Native and Indigenous students, the Native American and Indigenous Students Association (NAISA) aims to “educate and advocate on behalf of current events, issues, cultures, traditions, etc.”
There are several national organizations, programs, and opportunities that offer advocacy, guides for new students, and opportunities to find help getting a college education. Some are:
1. The American Indian College Fund has been advocating for Native students by offering a range of scholarships, providing resources to help students find and apply to schools, and helping them navigate campus life once they’re there.
2. The National Indian Education Association works to boost the number of Indigenous students in higher education by researching solutions, advocating at the state and federal levels, holding national events, and giving students connections to resources for college.
3. The federal government’s Bureau of Indian Education funds schools, community learning centers, and a wide range of programs for Indigenous students.
4. The Native American Awards Program – Visiting Student is a program offered by the Smithsonian Institution which gives students from all backgrounds a chance to study and do research at one of the world’s most respected places of learning.
5. Administered by the National Congress of American Indians, the Native Graduate Health Fellowship provides funding for citizens of American Indian or Alaska Native tribal nations who want to address their community’s health needs.
College is an opportunity to explore who you are, who you want to be, and where you want to go. While it is more than common to experience challenges as you go, college will most definitely present exciting opportunities. Clubs and activities can be a good way to find and/or create a space that you feel comfortable and welcomed. Remember you are not alone and the Center of Career Development is always available to help you navigate your career journey.