A $1.65 million grant from the National Science Foundation was awarded in late September to Western and the Northwest Indian College to support Native American students who want to attend graduate school for environmental science at Western.
NWIC is located within the Lummi Nation, nine miles away from Western. It is a college built specifically for the higher education of Native Americans in the Pacific Northwest and is the only accredited tribal college for Washington, Oregon and Idaho.
The NSF was created by Congress in the 1950s as a way to further basic scientific research through colleges and universities.
For Emma Norman and John Rybczyk, both chairs of the environmental science departments at NWIC and Western respectively, this furthers the relationship between the two institutions, Rybcysk said.
The NSF grant will be split almost in half. For Western, the money will be used in hiring a new faculty member for Huxley who will be the liaison between NWIC and Western. The rest of the money will go toward paying for tuition and research assistance positions for NWIC students that apply, as well as training, seminars and traveling involved between NWIC and Western, Rybcyk said.
Rybczyk estimates about 30 to 40 students would be interested in the grant.
“The Lummi Nation is such a force in the environmental movement, they’ve got tribal lands that include the Nooksack Delta, fisheries and they have a lot of good environmental scientists,” Rybczyk said.
For Norman, it’s more about how NWIC as an institution can meet community needs. The school is evolving and now offers four-year degrees and helps to prepare students to pursue graduate school, Norman said.
Members of the Lummi Nation and other Native Americans have a lot at stake in terms of having a clean ecosystem and being a part of the leadership, Norman said.
NWIC has had several students go on to study geography but never for environmental science or geosciences, making this grant a good fit, Norman said. The professors involved agree on continuing the strong relationship between the two colleges by providing the future with strong, diverse leaders.