Pitzer College Wins 100,000 Strong in the Americas Innovation Fund Grant

New partnership with Vancouver Island University will increase Indigenous student access to higher education in US and Canada

Claremont, Calif. (November 30, 2016)—Pitzer College and its program partner Vancouver Island University have won a 100,000 Strong in the Americas Innovation Fund grant for its new program, Vancouver Island and Pitzer College Indigenous Student and Innovation Exchange. The 100,000 Strong in the Americas Innovation Fund is a public-private collaboration of the White House, US Department of State, Partners of the Americas and NAFSA: Association of International Educators.

Through the new program, Pitzer College and Vancouver Island University (VIU) will bring together two established indigenous mentorship programsthe Native Youth to College Program and Community Cousinsto increase Indigenous student access to and retention in post-secondary education. This new exchange program will go beyond the standard approach to academics by drawing on Native North American scholars and Elders’ wisdom to contribute cultural knowledge and traditional ways of learning within the academic environment.

Pitzer College’s Native Youth to College Program, founded in 2009, is a week-long training session for the program’s college-aged mentors and a two-week, on-campus college preparatory program for Indigenous youth in ninth through eleventh grades. It is designed to inspire them to graduate high school, become prepared for college and strengthen their connection to traditional knowledge. An in-depth curriculum includes academic and creative writing, computer literacy, multidisciplinary arts workshops, health science classes and land-based learning from Cahuilla Elders. The program is led by Pitzer College alumnus Scott Scoggins ’10 with Associate Professor of Sociology Erich Steinman serving as faculty adviser.

Vancouver Island University’s ‘Su’luqw’a’ Community Cousins (Aboriginal Mentorship Program) began in 2011 with funding provided by The Counselling Foundation of Canada. The goals of this program are to increase access and retention of Aboriginal students at VIU; to improve communication and connection between students, elders, community and campus and to enhance leadership skills of student mentors.

Students, faculty, staff, local Elders and Ingenious youths will be participating in the program exchange between Pitzer College and Vancouver Island University in the summer of 2017. VIU students and Elders will attend Pitzer’s 2017 Native Youth to College Program from July 5 to July 25. Pitzer students, staff and Indigenous youth will travel to VIU from July 29  to August 21. During the exchange, students in the program will be encouraged to find their voices and visions for cultural reclamation and sovereignty. The primary goal of this partnership is to develop an exchange program for Indigenous youths to learn more about higher education in both the United States and Canada.

The goal of 100,000 Strong in the Americas, US President Barack Obama’s signature education initiative in the Western Hemisphere, is to facilitate student mobility throughout the Americas with new programs that will increase the number of US students going to the Western Hemisphere to 100,000 and bring 100,000 students from the Western Hemisphere to study in the United States on an annual basis by 2020. The goals of the initiative are to enhance hemispheric competitiveness, stimulate regional education cooperation and prepare students to be more globally competent for the twenty-first-century workforce.

This is the third in four sets of Innovation Fund grant competitions supported by Santander Bank through its Santander Universities program. This competition was open to higher education institutions in all countries throughout the Western Hemisphere and to all academic fields of study. The winning institutions will create new innovative partnerships that will increase student mobility to and from Latin America, the Caribbean and the United States, provide technical training and prepare students to be more globally competent for the twenty-first-century workforce.

The Innovation Fund awards are $25,000 each and will leverage commitments from winning university teams to increase student mobility, provide training in various academic fields and provide students with unique opportunities to participate in study abroad programs. It is expected that over 120 students will study abroad as a result of the eight awards given.

This is the second study abroad grant Pitzer has received through the US State Department and Partners of America this year. In August, Pitzer College received a 2016 Capacity Building Grant for US Study Abroad to support its new Global/Local Portuguese & Vietnamese Project and the Integrative, Community-Engaged Less Commonly Taught Languages Learning Program.

Pitzer students, faculty and staff in Vancouver Island, spring 2016.
Pitzer students, faculty and staff in Vancouver Island, spring 2016.

About Pitzer College

Pitzer College is a nationally top-ranked undergraduate liberal arts and sciences institution. A member of The Claremont Colleges, Pitzer offers a distinctive approach to a liberal arts education by linking intellectual inquiry with interdisciplinary studies, cultural immersion, social responsibility and community involvement. For more information, please visit www.pitzer.edu.

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