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Wokini Initiative receives the Outstanding Student Support Program Award


South Dakota State University’s Wokini Initiative has been named the 2020 recipient of the Outstanding Student Support Program Award by the NASPA (Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education) Indigenous Peoples Knowledge Community. The IPKC also recognized Shana Harming’s leadership in developing the Wokini framework. The awards were announced during the NASPA annual conference in March. Portions of the conference were held online this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Wokini Initiative is SDSU’s collaborative and holistic framework to support American Indian student success and Indigenous Nation-building. Harming, who is an enrolled member of the Kul Wicasa Oyate or Lower Brule Sioux Tribe, is the director of Wokini and tribal relations.

Each year, the IPKC presents the award to a higher education program or individual who has demonstrated positive impacts on Indigenous students and their development.

Shana Harming
Shana Harming

“The Wokini Initiative goes far beyond offering scholarships and building a new American Indian Student Center,” said Harming, who also participated in one of the conference's panel presentations. “The focus is to improve the recruitment of American Indian students and increase the retention rate through culturally responsive strategies and programs, which our faculty and staff see as a significant aspect of their roles at SDSU.

“Many American Indians feel invisible, especially on a college campus. Wokini highlights the resiliency of American Indian students as well as promotes culturally responsive and appropriate strategies that support American Indian students in higher education,” she continued. “Part of my role has a focus on educating our staff and faculty regarding Lakota/Dakota history, culture and contemporary issues. This is an important component of the Wokini Initiative.”

In the award letter, NASPA stated the Wokini Initiative was selected “because the Initiative not only actively nurtures student learning and success at South Dakota State University, but also thoughtfully engages a variety of stakeholders in creating an empowering university context for the students.

“What is more, your nomination received tremendous support from the IPKC, as Ms. Harming’s experience and expertise has helped to further develop and educate SDSU’s student affairs division and the broader campus community about the experiences of Indigenous peoples in higher education.”