Native American Initiatives (NAI)
To honor the Indigenous lands and Native Nations from which the University of Arizona has benefited by insuring the internal systems are in place to advance student success.
The Indigenous Circle is a University of Arizona (UArizona) organization for staff and faculty members who are and/or work with Indigenous communities and/or Indigenous students. We foster networks and build collaborations to optimize partnership and programming opportunities in culturally appropriate and respectful ways, thereby, increasing our effectiveness at recruiting and retaining Indigenous staff, faculty, and students; ensuring community based participatory efforts; building Indigenous community capacity; supporting awareness of Indigenous contributions at campus events; and, ultimately becoming a recognized institutional entity.
Meetings: Organization meetings are held in spring and fall and are hosted by a UArizona unit/department. Date, time, and location will vary depending on the host. Meeting announcements will be posted to the listserv.
Agenda: The host of the meetings will provide a welcome and an overview of their unit/department to kick-off the meeting. The remainder of the meeting will be open to other agenda topics put forth by the membership.
Listserv: firstname.lastname@example.org; as a member, you are able to post announcements to this listserv.
To add or remove from listserv: Please contact Martha Lee, Native American Initiatives Program Coordinator, at email@example.com. Thelistserv is restricted to UArizona employees only.
MESCIT is a math tutoring and mentorship program for Native American high school students in Southern Arizona. The program was established in 2018 by Dr. Irene Shivaei and Dr Gurtina Besla from the Department of Astronomy & Steward Observatory. MESCIT trains UArizona undergraduate students as math tutors to hold personalized math tutoring sessions at the Ha:sañ Preparatory and Leadership School, a charter high school in Tucson with predominantly Tohono O’odham students. This program operates at the interface of education and workforce development, with the goal to both advance math education and math identity among Native American high school students and also to help them realize their potential to pursue careers in STEM fields. UArizona undergraduates serve as both math tutors and mentors, offering students relatable role models pursuing careers in fields like engineering, physics, and math.
MESCIT is funded and supported by:
- The UArizona Department of Astronomy & Steward Observatory
- The UArizona College of Engineering
- Larry Allen (Astronomy Board Donor)
- The Office of the Senior Vice President for Native American Advancement & Tribal Engagement.
- Dr. Gurtina Besla, Associate Professor, Astronomy Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Amber Laughing, Program Administrator of MESCIT Email: email@example.com
Program Leads: Dr. Irene Shivaei & Dr. Everett Schlawin
Native American Initiatives (NAI) is a leader in enhancing Native American student and faculty experiences on campus by being innovative and advancing initiatives that honor the importance of building relationships, trust, and mutually beneficial partnerships with Indigenous communities.
We present you with the final 2022-2027 Native American Initiatives (NAI) Strategic Plan: A Collective Approach to Nurturing Indigenous Student Success, which has been developing since the creation of the NAI office in January 2020.
Red Star International, Inc. (Red Star), an Indigenous-led non-profit organization, supported NAI in facilitating a planning process to create an Indigenous-centered, student-focused, and research-based framework to guide NAI’s commitment to leading and coordinating campus-wide support for Indigenous student success.
We added a one-year progress report of the different activities and initiatives aligned with the strategic plan that NAI either led or supported. The activities and initiatives are not a comprehensive list of all the work achieved by our institutional partners. However, it is a start in documenting the operationalization of the plan’s strategic priorities.
May the plan be helpful in your work as we strive to enhance the university experience for Native American students, faculty, and communities.
NAI Strategic Plan 2022-2027
NAI Strategic Plan Year 1 Progress Report
Native SOAR (Student Outreach, Access and Resiliency)
Native SOAR was established in 2005 by Dr. Jenny Lee, Professor in the College of Education’s Center for the Study of Higher Education at The University of Arizona, and Dr. Amanda Tachine, Assistant Professor in the Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College at Arizona State University. Since its inception, Native SOAR has provided culturally responsive student support services beginning in middle school all the way through doctoral education, creating a strong pipeline for AI/AN scholars, educators, and practitioners. The program has been recognized nationally, including by First Lady Michelle Obama’s Reach Higher initiative.
Native SOAR is a multigenerational mentoring program that centers the needs of AI/AN students throughout the K-20 educational system. Native SOAR draws upon asset-based AI/AN pedagogies to provide culturally responsive mentoring and support services. Since 2014, Native SOAR has served:
- 6,500 K-12 students
- 15 K-12 schools across Pima county
- 189 undergraduate students representing 16 sovereign Native nations and 41 majors
Undergraduate students serve as mentors for K-12 students, providing them with culturally relevant college planning information. Simultaneously, undergraduate students are mentored by graduate students to ensure each participant is holistically supported. This multigenerational mentoring model is rooted in evidence-based best practices that create a strong familial environment for both mentors and mentees, simultaneously promoting enrollment in higher education for K-12 students and retention for undergraduate students.
While widespread structural barriers have historically resulted in AI/AN students lagging behind their peers in high school graduation rates, college persistence rates, and college graduation rates, Native SOAR participants have consistently outpaced their non- participant peers in first-to-second year retention and six-year graduation rates. Native SOAR is a premier program with a proven track record of closing the educational achievement gap for AI/AN students.
Martha S. Lee is the Program Coordinator for Native American Initiatives, UArizona Office of the Provost, where she supports programs and events for Native American students and faculty.
In a career of over two decades in higher education, Martha has worked on grants, public relations, and special projects for Tohono O’odham Community College and previously for the Extended University at the University of Arizona. She has focused on documenting and advocating for the success of Native American students in their educational journeys.
Native American Initiatives works across campus with the following units. Within these units are many key exemplary programs and services supporting students and faculty.