Big Sky Roundup

University of Montana awarded $10M grant for multi-state indigenous STEM student collaboration

By: - August 11, 2022 7:40 am

The grizzly bear statue in front of Main Hall on the University of Montana campus. (Provided by the University of Montana.)

The University of Montana will receive $1.8 million from a $10 million National Science Foundation grant awarded to a six-state collaboration to increase the representation of Alaska Native and American Indian (AI/AN) students in STEM.

According to a UM press release, UM’s share will help build a network for developing STEM educational resources and implement long-term programming and mentorship to support AI/AN students.

The grant funds Cultivating Indigenous Research Communities for Leadership in Education (the CIRCLES Alliance), which is led by Aaron Thomas, a UM chemistry professor and the director of UM Indigenous Research and STEM Education.

“The CIRCLES Alliance’s goal is to encourage AI/AN students to identify academically and culturally with being a Native scientist, technician, engineer or mathematician,” Thomas said in a statement provided by UM. “The hope is that more of these students will enter and persist in STEM-related fields and the workforce.”

The CIRCLES Alliance launched in 2020 with support from the National Science Foundation’s Established Program to Stimulate Competitive Research, as well as the Inclusion across the Nation of Communities of Learners of Underrepresented Discoverers in Engineering and Science program.

The alliance has previously partnered with tribal communities to understand how they value STEM and the challenges of better serving AI/AN students in public education. According to the press release, the alliance aims to “inform educational institutions and the National Science Foundation in Native cultural understanding and humility and to shift approaches toward AI/AN education.”

Partners in the grant include research institutions in Idaho, Montana, New Mexico, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wyoming. With the new funding, the alliance hopes to serve students and teachers through all undergraduate and K-12 levels across the West.

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Emily Tschetter
Emily Tschetter

Emily Tschetter is a junior studying journalism and political science at the University of Montana. She was born and raised in Billings and grew up surrounded with music between going to concerts and playing cello. She worked at the Montana Kaimin, University of Montana's independent student newspaper, as a news reporter last school year and will start as the news editor in the fall. In her free time Emily loves building up her vinyl collection, being overly critical of movies, going to cheap diners with friends and enjoying music whenever she can.