State regents recognize NSU, Cherokee Nation partnership

(Tahlequah, Okla.)--Recognized for their innovative collaboration, Northeastern State University and the Cherokee Nation were among 26 business and higher education partnerships recently acknowledged by the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education (OSRHE).

The regents cited two programs when recognizing the collaboration. In 2011, NSU partnered with the Cherokee Nation to enhance its bachelor of arts in Cherokee education with a major in Cherokee language. The program is the only of its kind. Northeastern and the Nation also partner for the Cherokee Promise Scholarship program.

"We here at NSU know and understand the importance of our marriage to the Cherokee Nation, and we wish to take good care of our eternal partner," said Dr. Les Hannah, associate professor of English and coordinator of NSU's Cherokee language program.

Dr. Neil Morton, group leader for education services with the Cherokee Nation, said cooperation with NSU facilitates educational access and resources for people and agencies of the Nation.

"The Cherokee Nation, from our perspective, has a university," Morton said. "We don't have the bricks and mortar nor do we handle its expenses, but NSU provides educational services which would be impossible for us to attain elsewhere due to proximity and scheduling issues. NSU gives the Cherokee Nation all the advantages of having its own college, or perhaps it is like access to a World Wide Web with personality."

The degree program educates students to become elementary or secondary school teachers who speak Cherokee fluently and are proficient in the reading and writing of the language. The degree also prepares teachers who are knowledgeable and prepared to teach Cherokee culture and heritage.

Morton said the teamwork between NSU and the Nation extends beyond the programs cited by the regents.

"The greatest impact is that we have about 3,000 students attending college on scholarships, and the plurality – about 650-700 – attend Northeastern," he said. "This gives us a significant presence on campus. Another great advantage are the opportunities for our people to access NSU faculty and staff. As we develop new programs, they provide consultation and assistance."

A goal of the enhanced degree program is to create a skilled workforce and an educational environment that will expand and implement the Cherokee language into business and entrepreneurial opportunities. The initiative, along with other Cherokee Nation educational scholarships, provides necessary financial support for the next generation of Cherokee students.

The purpose of the Cherokee Promise Scholarship is to provide financial assistance to Cherokee students pursuing higher education. The Cherokee Nation Education and Human Services groups have partnered to develop and administer the program.

Cherokee Promise students live on the third floor of the Haskell Hall Annex at NSU, which is set aside for CPS recipients to facilitate Cherokee immersion. Students participate in cultural activities and specialized classes and speak Cherokee as often as practicable.

Hannah mentioned other projects under way through the partnership of NSU and the Nation:

  • Literacy efforts to help Bell School students improve reading comprehension, headed by Dr. Tobi Thompson, assistant professor of curriculum and instruction in the College of Education.
  • Concurrent credit courses offered at Sequoyah High School and Stilwell High School by the NSU Department of Languages and Literature and the Department of Mathematics and Computer Science.
  • The Department of Athletics has sent the NSU Spirit Squads to local schools with large Cherokee enrollments.
  • Dr. Carl Farinelli, professor of educational foundations and leadership, conducts ACT exam prep workshops at schools with large Cherokee enrollments; Jeffrey Canan, English instructor and coordinator of general education capstone projects, also works with Stilwell schools.

Local schools with which NSU partners include Bell, Dahlonegah, Zion and Rocky Mountain.

“When businesses partner with higher education, the regional and state economy wins,” said Chancellor Glen D. Johnson. “Oklahoma’s colleges and universities collaborate with businesses to provide customized education and training, and through these efforts, students receive hands-on, career-related experiences that better prepare them for today’s business world. As economic engines, higher education institutions serve as catalysts for generating ideas and business opportunities. Colleges and universities also support health and wellness initiatives through medical centers and recreational facilities that benefit not only the lives of their students but their surrounding communities.?

The OSRHE’s Economic Development Grant for the Partnership Recognition Program highlights successful partnerships between higher education institutions and businesses and to further cultivate the higher learning environment through State Regents’ Economic Development Grants.

Institutions involved in the partnerships provide $500 for tuition waivers to employees of the partnering businesses; internships for students of the institutions to work at the partnering businesses; faculty externships with the partnering businesses; and enhancement of the partnerships with additional equipment, materials or supplies. The State Regents provide a $500 match to the waivers.

Hannah said NSU and the Nation are "partners of destiny."

"I believe the two thrive with each other's presence," he said. "NSU was born from the Cherokee Nation’s seminaries well over a hundred years ago. Our cooperation is certainly not a recent development and I believe the next hundred years hold great promise for this partnership."

More details about the partnerships will be available on the State Regents' website

Published: 5/18/2012 3:13:01 PM

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