This is the final week of our campaign and I hate to admit that it has been more difficult than I imagined. I made the mistake of buying into the prevailing attitude that tribes are flush with Indian Gaming money and that they and their partners would not blink an eye at giving to an Indian association. Oh boy, was I wrong! The most jarring response I heard was, “UNLV doesn’t do anything for Indian students.” As an Indian person, who is somewhat familiar with retention, progression, and completion efforts, this sentiment is hard for me to defend against and it made me question why and what we (AIA) do in this area.
After I dusted myself off, I dove back into the literature on American Indians/Alaska Natives (AI/AN) and Higher Education. Almost immediately, I found an article by Raphael M. Guillory, who is a professor of Counseling, Educational, and Developmental Psychology, at Eastern Washington University. Dr. Guillory’s article deals with retention strategies for AI/AN students. Guillory identifies three retention strategies and I was heartened to learn that our Native American Welcome achieves at least two of the goals covered under Dr. Guillory’s strategies. The three strategies are as follows.
Strategy 1: Maintain Connections to Family and Tribal Community. The idea here is that Indian students are motivated to persist by a desire to give back to their community or to Indian Country in general. The goal for institutions is to provide ways for their students to maintain their tribal connections and to learn about the needs of Indian Country so students can enter into high demand careers. AIA does make a special effort to invite students’ families to attend the Native American Welcome. The act of inviting families to campus encourages them to become involved in the educational journey and eases any hesitation they might have about sending their family member/s to UNLV.
Strategy 2: Address Single-Parent Students and Students with Family Issues. This strategy recognizes that a high percentage of AI/AN students are non-traditional students with unique needs. For 2017, AIA has revamped its welcome to address this issue. The Native American Welcome program contains a guide that identifies resources both at UNLV and within the community. In addition, we have invited one speaker (a former Ms. Native UNLV), who is working for the Inter-Tribal Council of Nevada, to provide child-care to Native families.
Strategy3: Academic Assistance through Peer Mentoring. UNLV does not have a peer mentoring program for its Native students. However, each year we do invite the native registered student organizations to participate in the welcome. This year, native student organizations will provide one of the official welcomes and we hope that their presence will encourage students to build social networks that may develop into mentee/mentor relationships.
Now, I understand that none of this absolves us from the larger criticism that, at the institutional level, UNLV does not do all that it can to insure more of its Native students persist and complete their educational goals. The American Indian Alliance will continue to lobby administration to do more and we have witnessed some movement in the right direction. Moreover, we know there are members of the President’s Cabinet who are concerned about the status of UNLV’s Native students and they are our allies in this effort. Please do not doubt our commitment AND please join us by contributing today and sharing our campaign with your friends and colleagues. Onward and upward! #NativeUNLV
Richard Boland, Project Collaborator
 Guillory, R. M. (2009). American Indian/Alaska Native College Student Retention Strategies. Journal of Developmental Education, Winter, 14-40.