As part of Native American Heritage Month, Utah Valley University (UVU) officially announced its expanded Native American Initiative along with the news that UVU will offer scholarships to indigenous students from all eight of Utah’s federally recognized tribes.

With Native American students enrolling in college at half the rate of other groups nationwide, UVU has embarked on an effort to change that statistic by encouraging Native Americans to consider college by providing various support options for those who do enroll.

“UVU has nearly 800 Native American students, and we have a tradition of helping them negotiate their paths to a college degree,” said Tara Ivie, associate vice president of Student Services. “Thanks to legislative funding earlier this year, we are scaling out (our) Native American Initiative, which will allow us to do even more for our students.”

Led by Director Justin Allison, these expanded efforts are made possible by a generous $2 million legislative appropriation from the state of Utah. The funding includes scholarship money, enabling eligible indigenous students to attend UVU tuition-free through tribal and state-sponsored scholarships.

Allison and his team for the Native American Initiative will prioritize student success. They have already launched a Learning Community program, a nationally proven best practice that helps students with common backgrounds succeed in general education courses.

“There are several fundamental classes that all UVU students must take,” said Allison. “When students do well in those classes, they are much more likely to continue in college and graduate. Two of those classes are English 1010 and Math 1010.”

Native American Professor Dezi Lynn is currently teaching a cohort of 17 Native American students in English 1010. This learning community provides a safe space for indigenous students to learn from both a native instructor and their peers. Lynn’s approach involves bridging the gap between cultural thought processes, values, and beliefs and Western concepts such as pathos, ethos, and logos.

In addition to the learning community, UVU has made significant efforts to create a welcoming environment for Native American students on campus. Each November, the university celebrates National Native American Heritage Month with a series of events. This year, UVU has three major events planned.

A UVU Pow Wow on November 3 and 4 at 6 p.m. on the Orem Campus in the Lockhart Arena. This free public event will feature traditional Native American dance competitions for all age levels in many styles, accompanied by competitive drum groups. The theme this year is “Walking Towards Our Bright Future.” Delicious food, including Navajo tacos and green chili will be served.

A Native American Storytelling Night on Nov. 7 at 6 p.m. in the UVU Grand Ballroom. A light dinner will be served, and Native American stories will be told by students and community members. Stories will include myths, legends, and dances.

A Native American performance during half-time when the UVU Men’s Basketball Team takes on Seattle University on November 29 at 6 p.m. in the UCCU Center on the Orem Campus.

“We invite the community to come to the Pow Wow. It is a great way to learn about Native American culture and traditions,” said Allison. “This will be one of the biggest events of its kind in the state this year, and I am excited to have students from other universities and colleges participating.”

For more information and to reserve tickets for the events, please click here.

About Utah Valley University

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