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Thursday, September 26, 2013

Arizona State professor discusses American Indian student success

Dr. Bryan Brayboy believes one key to success for American Indian students is community support. The Pembroke native and Arizona State University (ASU) professor is constructing a model for nurturing successful American Indian students from pre-kindergarten through graduate school.

Bryan BrayboyDr. Brayboy, who is ASU’s Borderlands Professor of Indigenous Education and Justice in the School of Social Transformation, has forged a remarkable success story with a Pueblo doctoral cohort.

In a talk on September 5 at UNC Pembroke, titled “American Indians in Higher Education: A National Building Approach,” he discussed obstacles and solutions on the path to student success. The event was sponsored by UNCP’s Native Americans in Professional Education: Achieving Success program.

“I’m overwhelmed at how well our cohort is doing.” He said the strategy is: “We got out of their way.”

From the success of his program, Dr. Brayboy is distilling the factors for success of American Indians in education. With continuing high rates of poverty among reservation and non-reservation Indians, success does not come easy.

Retention rates for American Indian students lags behind other ethnic groups in the U.S. Dr. Brayboy cited data that shows Indigenous students are five times less proficient in reading and math; five times more likely to be in special education classes; and five times more likely to be in prison than college.

Mentorship is one important key to success, Dr. Brayboy maintains. “It takes one person” to make the difference – either for the better or worse, he said.

A critical component to the success of the Pueblo cohort is keeping American Indian graduate students in their communities. Dr. Brayboy said it took a Kellogg Foundation grant and considerable deliberation at ASU to adapt the institutional standard for doctoral studies.

“These students are leaders in their community,” he said. “We’re not taking them out of their leadership roles in the communities where they are needed.”

The 10 students in the cohort are from nine Native communities and retention is 100 percent, Dr. Brayboy said. “These people are changing their communities and changing our university.”

Dr. Brayboy praised UNCP’s “core values” and its outreach efforts led by Chancellor Kyle R. Carter. Because UNCP is already located in its target American Indian community, mentorship of students, beginning in elementary school, is critical for success, he said.

“Find people in the community who will take responsibility for students’ success,” Dr. Brayboy said. “Tap the resources already in place and use (UNCP) students as resources.

“Given the number of Lumbees at UNCP, there should be recognition that this is Lumbee land,” he said.

Dr. Brayboy earned his undergraduate degree at UNC-Chapel Hill and a master’s degree and Ph.D. from the University of Pennsylvania.

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