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News Release 18-089

NSF awards new level of support for tribal colleges, establishes STEM centers

Centers’ STEM expertise to benefit indigenous US citizens, tribes and communities

Native American at a local stream

Students and faculty at Aaniiih Nakoda College test the water quality of a local stream.

September 26, 2018

This material is available primarily for archival purposes. Telephone numbers or other contact information may be out of date; please see current contact information at media contacts.

The National Science Foundation's (NSF) Tribal Colleges and Universities Program (TCUP) has awarded $14 million to tribal colleges and universities (TCUs) to establish four new centers -- the first of their kind.

The Tribal Enterprise Advancement (TEA) centers will build upon the scientific and engineering (S&E) expertise at the TCUs to prepare the next generation of scientific professionals who will serve as the decision-makers and intellectual resources for their tribes and communities. The centers will address environmental, social, educational and economic challenges and promote community-relevant opportunities.

A trained S&E professional workforce, positioned for employment in tribal, state and national government agencies, will help change the economic well-being and quality of life on reservations and in other native communities.

Since the establishment of TCUs in the 1970s, federal agencies, particularly NSF, have invested in their science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) instructional capacity, supporting curricula, faculty, students and research. The new TEA Centers represent a significant step forward for TCUs that serve their communities as STEM partners.

"When TCUP began in 2001, we couldn't have anticipated the tremendous growth in the TCUs' STEM programming in such a few years," said Jody Chase, program director in NSF's Education and Human Resources Directorate. "But the popularity of STEM majors took off when culturally relevant curricula, undergraduate research opportunities and challenging mathematics courses came onto the menu, supported by agencies such as NSF and by the colleges' commitments to increase the numbers of highly qualified, scientifically credentialed faculty."

With federal funding, STEM opportunities at TCUs grew to include associate, baccalaureate and graduate degrees, and resulted in an array of research relevant to students' interests, cultures and environments.

"Having a trained scientific and engineering professional workforce, positioned for employment in tribal, state and national government agencies, will change the economic well-being and quality of life for reservations and other native communities," Chase said. "We anticipate these new centers will produce greater innovation and economic expansion within the communities served by the TCUP institutions."

The following is a list of the newly awarded centers, institutions and principal investigators, and brief descriptions of the center's anticipated activities.

  • Tribal Enterprise Advancement Center for Community Marine Research, Northwest Indian College, David Oreiro
    Located at Northwest Indian College, affiliated with the existing Salish Sea Research Center and housed at the college, this center will partner with the Lummi Natural Resources Department (LNR) of the Lummi Nation. The center will focus on research and educational outreach regarding marine matters of the waters of the Salish Sea off the Pacific Northwest coast of the United States. Knowledge gained through this work will contribute to the understanding of the marine ecosystem and will be used by the LNR in managing their aquatic resources to protect water quality and ensure a safe and sustainable shellfish harvest.

  • Navajo Technical University's Advanced Manufacturing Center (NTUAMC), Navajo Technical University, Harold Halliday
    NTUAMC will pursue additive manufacturing technology through education, research and economic development on the Navajo Nation. NTUAMC will develop four new degree and certificate training programs in advanced manufacturing technology, including a bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering; an associate degree in metal additive manufacturing technician II; and certificates in quality control inspection and metal additive manufacturing technician.

  • United Tribes Technical College's Intertribal Research and Resource Center (IRRC), United Tribes Technical College, Jeremy Guinn
    United Tribes Technical College's IRRC will expand the college's record of serving the Northern Plains as a research and training center. It will conduct research and provide training and assistance to tribes in planning and managing multiple resources. The IRRC will operate on four core activities -- research, outreach, training and education -- and will immediately transform the institution by allowing first-time research faculty positions; employing a sustainable STEM research and outreach model; and utilizing a coordinated interdisciplinary approach to research, outreach, teaching and education.

  • Aaniiih Nakoda Nic'-Mni' (Water) Center, Aaniiih Nakoda College, Scott Friskics
    The Aaniiih Nakoda Nic'-Mni' (Water) Center will conduct and integrate findings from four related water research studies on issues of critical concern to the Fort Belknap Indian Community; offer training and education programs that will provide community members with the knowledge, skills, experience and credentials needed to address local water issues effectively; and gather and share information that can be used by the community to make informed decisions regarding the proper care and use of the reservation's water resources. Training and education programs will target Aaniiih Nakoda College students, community employees and other local stakeholders.


Media Contacts
Bobbie Mixon, NSF, (703) 292-8485, email:

Program Contacts
Lura (Jody) Chase, NSF, (703) 292-5173, email:

The U.S. National Science Foundation propels the nation forward by advancing fundamental research in all fields of science and engineering. NSF supports research and people by providing facilities, instruments and funding to support their ingenuity and sustain the U.S. as a global leader in research and innovation. With a fiscal year 2023 budget of $9.5 billion, NSF funds reach all 50 states through grants to nearly 2,000 colleges, universities and institutions. Each year, NSF receives more than 40,000 competitive proposals and makes about 11,000 new awards. Those awards include support for cooperative research with industry, Arctic and Antarctic research and operations, and U.S. participation in international scientific efforts.

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