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South Dakota State University announces new professional development series on American Indian history, culture and current issues

Rocky Dailey
South Dakota State University faculty and staff will develop a series of professional development opportunities to gain a broader understanding of American Indian history, culture and current issues thanks to a grant from Margaret A. Cargill Philanthropies.

South Dakota State University faculty and staff will develop a series of professional development opportunities to gain a broader understanding of American Indian history, culture and current issues. As part of the university’s Wokini Initiative, the professional development series will help foster a culturally responsive and supportive campus environment for American Indian students to support the goal of their increasing retention and graduation rates.

“We are honored and thankful to have the chance to create this innovative professional development and learning opportunity for our campus. The series will address a critical campus need identified through our Wokini Initiative which impacts American Indian students’ sense of belonging and ultimately their overall success,” said Shana Harming, Wokini program director. “As the state’s first land-grant institution, it is our responsibility to understand not only the history of South Dakota’s indigenous people, but also the value of native culture and how the past impacts the present. American Indian students have a connection to their families, cultural values and the history of their people. Our faculty and staff need to understand how important that is and how implementing culturally responsive practices will benefit the overall success of American Indian students.”

The Wokini Initiative’s five-year strategic plan outlines an intentional goal of increasing American Indian enrollment significantly by the 2022-23 academic year. The plan also identifies professional development as a means to reach this goal. The training will focus on the areas of land and environment, identity and resiliency, culture and language, kinship and harmony, oral tradition and story, sovereignty and treaties, and way of life and development.

“We are eager to get to work creating this cultural professional development for our employees, but more importantly, we are excited about the transformational changes to our campus that will provide a more holistic approach in supporting native students,” Harming added.
    
According to Harming, the professional development series will feature online modules and seminars to include interactive components around personal reflection and discussion. The effort will advance educational and professional development opportunities that will improve the establishment of culturally responsive environments and practices at SDSU.

The professional development opportunities are made possible by funding from Margaret A. Cargill Philanthropies. The grant will provide $1 million over three years, beginning July 1.

About the Wokini Initiative
The Wokini Initiative will offer programming and support to enrolled members of the nine tribal nations in South Dakota interested in gaining access to educational and advancement opportunities at South Dakota State University. The initiative will also enhance research and outreach collaborations and programs with tribes, tribal colleges and other tribal organizations in the state. The initiative will align student opportunities to pursue degrees that will impact communities and their tribes while recognizing the importance of family and native culture.
 
Wokini-supported students will be given the resources and access to academic, personal, health and financial wellness knowledge needed to succeed at South Dakota State University and in life after graduation.