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A Unique University-Tribal College Collaboration to Strengthen Native American Pathways to STEM Education

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2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Vancouver, BC

Publication Date

June 26, 2011

Start Date

June 26, 2011

End Date

June 29, 2011



Conference Session

Developing Young MINDS in Engineering, Part II

Tagged Division

Minorities in Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

22.120.1 - 22.120.9

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Paper Authors


G. Padmanabhan North Dakota State University

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G. Padmanabhan, Ph.D., P.E., M. ASEE, F. ASCE is a professor of civil engineering at North Dakota State University, Fargo, North Dakota. He is a long standing member of ASEE and ASCE. Currently, he is also the Director of North Dakota Water Resources Research Institute. He has been active in STEM education outreach activities to minorities at the college and high and middle school levels for the last ten years.

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Robert V. Pieri North Dakota State University

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Bob Pieri is Professor of Mechanical Engineering at NDSU in Fargo, ND. He has many conference publications on engineering education and design. His primary professional interest areas include: Engineering Education, CADD, Design, Fracture Mechanics, Materials Science and Alternative Energy Options. During the 2003 - 2004 academic year, Dr. Pieri spent a sabbatical teaching math & engineering courses at Turtle Mountain Community College on the Turtle Mountain Reservation in North Dakota. Since the fall of 2008, Dr Pieri has held the position of Coordinator of Tribally Controlled Colleges – NDSU Partnerships under joint appointment to the Equity, Diversity and Global Outreach Division, Extension Service and Mechanical Engineering Department. In this unique position, he actively works to develop authentic partnering opportunities with the TCC’s and many disciplines across campus. Prior to joining NDSU, he taught for 10 years at the U.S. Air Force Academy. Prior to his time at USAFA, Dr Pieri was a Research & Development Engineer with the Air Force, studying problems of pollution in the earth’s atmosphere.

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Carol Davis North Dakota State University

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Dr. Carol Davis is a member of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa. Among her educational experiences that she considers important is the time she spent in a boarding school for American Indians in South Dakota. She married Lynn Davis, also a member of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa, 44 years ago and they raised six children there at Turtle Mountain. She still resides with her husband on the Turtle Mountain Reservation where she enjoys spending time with her family, especially her fifteen grandchildren. She received her bachelor’s degree in elementary education from Mayville State University in 1980. She taught middle school for eight years. She earned her Masters Degree from the University of ND in 1989 and was assistant high school principal for one year before transferring to Turtle Mountain Community College, a tribal college on her reservation. She remained there for seventeen years as an administrator. During her tenure, she received a doctorate in education in 2000 from Walden University. For the past 4 ½ years she has worked for North Dakota EPSCoR as the Tribal College Liaison. In that position, she is helping to create a pathway for American Indian high school and tribal college students into STEM careers through STEM camps and Sunday Academies. She also supports the ND EPSCoR/Tribal College research capacity building effort at the five North Dakota Tribal Colleges.

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A Unique University-Tribal College Collaboration to Strengthen Native American Pathways to STEM EducationThe authors and colleagues have been engaged in strengthening the STEM education pathwaysin the North Dakota Reservations for the past eleven years through several activities. The focusof the activities have been at the interaction of tribal high school, tribal college, mainstreamuniversities and engineering profession stakeholders to facilitate the recruitment, education andsupport of tribal students to acquire and hone the skills that will allow them to enter theengineering profession. Throughout this period the collaborative activities were carried out in aculturally sensitive and supportive fashion. Collaborative activities started with one tribal collegein the State and developed to its full scope when all five tribal colleges joined the effort. One onone university-tribal college collaboration is not uncommon. However, this collaboration isunique in engaging the two mainstream universities, all the five tribal colleges, and Reservationhigh schools in the State. The student pathways are engaged at various entry points: middle andhigh school, tribal college, and universities and also at different personnel levels: administrators,faculty, and high school teachers. All of the activities such as Sunday academies, summer camps,and research mentoring were developed collaboratively with input from tribal college anduniversity faculty and high school teachers. Such a collaborative approach allowed us to developactivities common to all participating sites and at the same time to retain the unique needs of theindividual sites. This approach also provided a leveraging of engineering professors’ time forcontent vs. the tribal high school instructors’ efforts on student connections and deliverypedagogy. Another unique feature is that we were successful in having some of the students whoparticipated in these activities aid the process as peer mentors/ instructors. For example some ofthe college students who benefited from this program earlier were helping us in the high schoolsummer camps. This paper will summarize the experience of the authors with the university-tribal college collaborative effort over the last eleven years: how did it all start, where does itstand now, and what lessons did we learn.

ASEE holds the copyright on this document. It may be read by the public free of charge. Authors may archive their work on personal websites or in institutional repositories with the following citation: © 2011 American Society for Engineering Education. Other scholars may excerpt or quote from these materials with the same citation. When excerpting or quoting from Conference Proceedings, authors should, in addition to noting the ASEE copyright, list all the original authors and their institutions and name the host city of the conference. - Last updated April 1, 2015