A large fraction of American Indian students begin their college careers at one of the thirty-three accredited Tribal Colleges and Universities (TCUs). These institutions, most of which are associated with a particular tribe or set of tribes, are relatively new. Although most still provide only two-year degrees and certificates, others now offer a growing variety of four-year degrees and some offer master's degrees. Because of the important role of the TCUs in the education of Indian students, including those who major in STEM disciplines and go on to graduate work, it is important that these institutions' STEM faculty be capable of excellent teaching and guiding student research. Currently, approximately 28% of the 152 STEM faculty at TCUs have bachelor's degrees, 40% have master's degrees or are Ph.D. candidates, and 22% have doctorate degrees.
An ongoing program funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation provides scholarships to TCU faculty who are within one year of finishing their Ph.D. degrees with the understanding that these faculty would remain at their TCU institution for at least two years after earning their degree. Though the Mellon program has been successful in encouraging TCU faculty to finish graduate work (18 of 20 supported students have completed their Ph.D.) the supported faculty have largely come from fields outside science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, with only two of the twenty supported fellows coming from STEM fields. Funds from this grant will provide monies to expand and supplement Mellon's successful program, administered by the American Indian College Fund, to more aggressively recruit and support faculty from STEM disciplines.