MSU receives USDA-NIFA funding to support Native American students

Photos of Poitra, Kolonich, Tyler and Millenbah

(Written by Beth Bonsall, Dec 16, 2020)

Michigan State University (MSU) has been awarded $140,000 to support the Growing Native American Student Pathways into Agriculture as part of the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) through the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). This investment comes from the USDA New Beginning for Tribal Students grant program in the 2018 Farm Bill, which Michigan Senator Debbie Stabenow co-authored.

“The MSU leadership team thought it was important to create a program to support Native students’ academic pursuits,” said Dr. Christie Poitra, interim director of the MSU Native American Institute. “We were interested in working with students who had yet to declare a major or minor in hopes of attracting them into agriculture and natural resources fields. Although this program is about recruiting students into agriculture and natural resources, it’s also about expanding their knowledge of opportunities in higher education.”

In addition to Poitra, MSU leaders collaborating on the grant include Dr. Angela Kolonich, director of professional learning in the CREATE for STEM InstituteDr. Quentin Tyler, associate dean and director for diversity, equity and inclusion in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (CANR); and Dr. Kelly Millenbah, senior associate dean and director of academic and student affairs in the CANR.

“STEM disciplines have historically excluded Native American perspectives, lenses and knowledge,” Kolonich said. “Lifting our students’ ideas by supporting their success in STEM programs at Michigan State will ultimately change and reshape the field. It will open the possibility of exploring new questions and developing new explanations that have not yet been considered.”

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