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Dina Horwedel, Director of Public Education, American Indian College Fund, 303-426-8900,

Colleen R. Billiot, Public Education Coordinator, 720-214-2569,

Aug 24, 2022 | College Fund, Press Releases

American Indian College Fund Faculty Fellowships Develop Teaching and Research Expertise at Tribal Colleges and Universities

Programs Support Faculty and Staff Seeking Master’s and Terminal Degrees

August 25, 2022, Denver, Colo.— The American Indian College Fund’s faculty fellowship programs are creating greater education expertise in Indian Country, while building the academic and intellectual capacity of the 35 tribal colleges and universities it supports. In 2021-22 the College Fund awarded more than $366,150 to 22 faculty members.

The Mellon Faculty Career Enhancement Fellowship was established in 2004 by the College Fund and the Mellon Foundation to increase and retain the number of credentialed faculty with a terminal degree in the humanities and humanistic social sciences at the 35 accredited TCUs across the United States. To date the program has awarded 52 fellowships to TCU faculty who have completed their doctoral coursework, have entered the dissertation phase, and will complete their degree within one year. Faculty awards are up to $40,000 for one year. This year’s fellows include:

    • Vicki Besaw (Lac Courte Oreilles Lake Superior Band of Ojibwe), liberal studies faculty, College of Menominee Nation, Ed.D. in First Nations studies.
    • Meredith Johnson (Chickasaw Nation), adjunct instructor, College of the Muskogee Nation, Ph.D. in cultural anthropology.
    • Marcus Macktima (San Carlos Apache), adjunct faculty at San Carlos Apache College and Tohono O’odham Community College, Ph.D. in history.

The Mellon Master’s Fellowship was established in 2014 by the College Fund and the Mellon Foundation to increase and retain the number of faculty members with a master’s degree in the humanities and humanistic social sciences at the thirty-five accredited TCUs. The fellowship provides current TCU faculty, as well as staff who are likely to become faculty, with support and resources to complete a master’s degree in two years. Since 2014 the program has supported 46 TCU faculty with awards up to $25,000. Fellows include:

    • Lisa Brunner (White Earth Ojibwe Nation), director of community extension services and adjunct faculty at White Earth Tribal and Community College, M.A. tribal governance and administration.
    • Tashina Emery, chair of liberal studies at Keweenaw Bay Indian Community College, M.F.A. in creative writing.
    • Stacie Lyon (Bois Forte and White Earth), behavioral science instructor at Leech Lake Tribal College, M.A. in sociology.

The Mellon Graduate Hours Fellowship was established in 2018 and provides funding for faculty seeking to complete up to eighteen credit hours in their respective fields to meet new accreditation requirements. Priority is given to faculty at TCUs accredited by the Higher Learning Commission. Fellowships provide support for up to three consecutive semesters and up to $15,000 depending on the number of credits required. To date, forty-one fellowships have been awarded, including six this year:

    • Leonard Bailey, culinary arts faculty at Southwest Indian Polytechnic Institute,18 credits toward master’s degree in communication.
    • Audrey Blood (Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribe), nurse faculty, Salish Kootenai College,18 credits towards a master’s degree in nursing.
    • Melanie Buchleiter, registrar and adjunct Indigenous studies faculty at the Institute of American Indian Arts,18 credits toward a Ph.D. in human development.
    • Eva Rivera Lebrón, mathematics faculty, Southwest Indian Polytechnic Institute, 18 credits towards a master’s degree in global and national security.
    • Shoshaunee Perez (Tulalip, Tlingit, and Haida), first-year experience advisor and adjunct faculty at Northwest Indian College, 18 credits toward a master’s degree in adult education.
    • Angelina Santa Ana (Cup’ik, Alaska Native) faculty instructor in counseling, Northwest Indian College, 22 CEUs to maintain certification as a rehabilitation counselor.

The College Fund Master’s Fellowship and Doctorate Fellowship Programs were established in 2021 to support faculty pursuing a graduate degree. By promoting graduate and terminal degrees among faculty, the College Fund helps develop skilled leaders who have already demonstrated their commitment to TCUs. Fellowships are open to faculty in any field of study.

The College Fund Doctorate Fellowship is awarded to faculty who have completed their doctoral coursework, entered the dissertation phase, and will complete their degree within one year. Faculty awards are up to $20,000. Fellows include:

    • Bridget Brooks, adjunct business instructor at White Earth Tribal and Community College, Ph.D. in teaching and learning with a higher education emphasis.
    • Sheryl Hammock (Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa), early childhood education chair, Bay Mills Community College, Ph.D. in education with a specialty in early childhood education leadership and advocacy.

The College Fund Master’s Fellowship is awarded to faculty who have been accepted to or are enrolled in a master’s program. The award is up to $25,000 for up to two years. Fellows include:

    • Susan McNeil-Conley (Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa), career technical education director and adjunct faculty at Nueta Hidatsa Sahnish College, M.A. in legal studies.
    • Shoshaunee Perez (Tulalip, Tlingit, and Haida), first-year experience advisor and faculty at Northwest Indian College, M.A. in adult education.
    • Melanie Sandoval (Salish/Qlispe, Navajo), language instructor, Salish Kootenai College, M.A. in linguistics.
    • Makenzi Skellenger (Confederated Salish Kootenai Tribe), business division associate and adjunct faculty at Salish Kootenai College, M.B.A. in American Indian entrepreneurship.
    • Wesley Wilson, retention coordinator at Lac Courte Oreilles Ojibwe College, M.S.E. in counseling.

The College Fund Pre-Dissertation Faculty Fellowship Program was established in 2012 with support and funding from trustee Kim Blanchard and the Nyswander-Manson family, knowing (TCU) faculty must balance significant institutional responsibilities while working on their doctoral degree. The program provides faculty with $3,000 to $10,000 in funding for tuition, fees, books, research support, data collection and analysis, software, periodicals or books, and travel for research. The goals are to promote graduate degree attainment among faculty, to develop as skilled leaders, and to retain faculty who have demonstrated their commitment to TCUs.

The Nyswander-Manson Pre-Dissertation Fellowship is awarded to faculty at four-year TCUs. Fellows include:

    • Bobbi Frederick (Crow Creek Sioux), art instructor at Turtle Mountain Community College, Ed.D. in educational leadership and innovation.
    • Merisa Jones (Lummi Nation), chair of the Native studies leadership program at Northwest Indian College, Ed.D. in education leadership.
    • Ryan Winn, liberal studies faculty at College of Menominee Nation, Ph.D. in English with an emphasis on Indigenous literature and cultural theory.

The Blanchard Fellowship supports faculty at two- or four-year TCUs. Fellows include:

    • Karen Colbert, chair of general education and lead STEM faculty member at Keweenaw Bay Ojibwa Community College, Ph.D. in computational science and engineering.
    • Melanie Buchleiter, adjunct Indigenous studies faculty and registrar, Institute of American Indian Arts, Ph.D. in human development.
    • Shaina Nez (Diné), creative writing senior lecturer at Diné College, Ph.D. in justice studies.

About the American Indian College FundThe American Indian College Fund has been the nation’s largest charity supporting Native higher education for 33 years. The College Fund believes “Education is the answer” and provided $15.5 million in scholarships and other direct student support to American Indian students in 2020-21. Since its founding in 1989 the College Fund has provided more than $259 million in scholarships, programmatic and community support. The College Fund also supports a variety of academic and support programs at the nation’s 35 accredited tribal colleges and universities, which are located on or near Indian reservations, ensuring students have the tools to graduate and succeed in their careers. The College Fund consistently receives top ratings from independent charity evaluators and is one of the nation’s top 100 charities named to the Better Business Bureau’s Wise Giving Alliance. For more information about the American Indian College Fund, please visit

Journalists—The American Indian College Fund does not use the acronym AICF. On second reference, please use the College Fund.

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