The Trustees of The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation have approved a grant of $2.024 million to the American Indian College Fund to continue support for graduate degree completion fellowships for Tribal College and University faculty. The three-year program, titled “Growing Our Own: Faculty Professional Development at Tribal Colleges and Universities,” is geared to invest in tribal college and university (TCU) faculty members and address the recent changes to TCU accreditation guidelines.

Most TCUs are located on American Indian reservations and in Alaska Native villages. They provide access to a higher education for students who reside in remote and rural areas and often cannot afford to relocate to attend college. TCUs are fulfilling a role that no other institution of higher education is capable of doing. These innovative institutions of higher education are serving as a pipeline for social and economic change, revitalizing the fabric of Native communities, and producing new generations of Native scholars, while preserving, nurturing, and perpetuating the culture and heritage of the communities they serve.

“Growing Our Own: Faculty Professional Development at Tribal Colleges and Universities” will provide professional development opportunities to TCU faculty and staff, giving them the chance to grow as leaders and to better serve their students. The program has three components: a Ph.D. Completion Program, a Master’s Degree Completion Program, and a Graduate Honors Program.

The Ph.D. Completion Program will provide one-year, $40,000 fellowships to eight TCU faculty who are “all but dissertation” in a terminal degree program, ensuring that they have the resources and time needed to complete their degrees. To qualify faculty must serve at the TCU for three years after earning his or her Ph.D.

The Master’s Degree Completion Program will provide two years of funding for 30 TCU faculty or staff (divided into three cohorts of 10 fellows each year) who hold bachelor’s degrees and are working towards or wish to complete a master’s of arts degree.

The Graduate Hours Program will provide funding for up to 40 TCU faculty members seeking to complete 18 graduate credit hours in their fields to meet recent accreditation requirements for highly qualified faculty, with priority given to faculty teaching at TCUs accredited by the Higher Learning Commission. The primary content areas to be funded are in the humanities (including English, music, art, language, and history). The College Fund also will award to up to 10 Fellows who choose disciplines other than the humanities, including education and public health.

The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation has worked with the College Fund to develop the qualifications to strengthen TCU faculty leadership to help position these institutions for future growth since 2004.

Cheryl Crazy Bull, former President of Northwest Indian College and current President and CEO of the American Indian College Fund, says, “Education is one of the most influential ways that Native people and American society provide a framework for history and for contemporary life. For tribal people, education is how we affirm our identities, build the esteem of our citizens, and share our values with the rest of society. This investment by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation is phenomenal because it not only removes a significant barrier to access, financial support, it brings new and better knowledge and qualifications to our most valued assets – our teachers. The College Fund appreciates both our long-time relationship with the Foundation and its ability to approach education in our communities in more timely and creative ways.”

Armando Bengochea, the Program Officer for Diversity and Director of the Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship (MMUF) program at the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, says, “This is a very important ongoing effort of the Mellon Foundation to build academic capacity at these vital institutions. Professionalization efforts at TCUs not only provide necessary and ongoing training for faculty but they build the leadership assets of the institutions, tribal nations, and local community.”