Outdoor Living Spaces: Attracting Native American Students?
By Katrina Schwartz, University Communications
Native American students have the opportunity to have a positive experience at campus colleges and universities. However, the reality for many is complicated. There are many elements needed to create a culturally relevant learning environment that still is supportive and warm to students.
One of the major components to building a successful environment for native students is an outdoor living space, which is likely not something many students think about when considering the options available to them. An outdoor living space provides a comfortable way to get away from campus and school and spend time with family and friends, as well as other forms of bonding such as long conversations and relaxation with nature. This is especially important to these students who may have more difficulty in performing well in classroom classes because of limitations on time.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, approximately 67.1 million people identify as American Indian or Alaska Native, with an estimated 2.7 million graduating from American Indian or Alaska Native colleges and universities in 2015. What is even more impressive is that only 11 percent of American Indian and Alaska Native college students were enrolled full-time in a first-year classes. These numbers are part of why many students are willing to move to other states or have faraway travel plans in order to attend a university. This means that they are not in school year-round and it can also mean their individual backgrounds can be marginalized when compared to their peers at other universities.
Changing campus environments can help native students focus on the basics and become the very best that they can be. They need a safe space in which to accomplish and focus on the six core competencies of their college coursework. These competencies are: financial literacy, communication skills, self-management, evidence-based learning, critical thinking, and leadership. Even if the university is larger than the community, it still has an opportunity to change the dynamics by providing students with an outdoor living space where they can focus and learn their priorities for the current and future years.
The beginning of this semester I received an email from one of my students who described her retreat in order to gain confidence to start the first day of her degree course. She stated she grew comfortable in front of her peers and was able to express herself in new ways. What is encouraging is that my student admitted that with this new approach, she had increased her academic performance. Thus, a college educational institution does have the opportunity to make a significant impact on the academic success of students at many levels.
To learn more about the experiences of Native American students, go to www.atlv.edu.edu/about/for-…