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First class of students complete Wizipan Leadership and Sustainability Program based at Crazy Horse Memorial

The first class of students to enroll in the new Wizipan Leadership and Sustainability Program recently completed the semester-long experience.
The first class of students to enroll in the new Wizipan Leadership and Sustainability Program recently completed the semester-long experience held at the Crazy Horse Memorial. 

The first class of students to enroll in the new Wizipan Leadership and Sustainability Program recently completed the semester-long experience offered through a unique partnership between South Dakota State University and The Indian University of North America of Crazy Horse Memorial. The program provides students with a unique, immersive academic experience grounded in Native philosophy.

Nine students earned a 15-credit hour certificate in leadership and sustainability from SDSU after completing the program. The students attended classes and lived in a modern, suite-style residential and instructional facility at Crazy Horse Memorial in the Black Hills of South Dakota.

“The program creates a unique atmosphere for students,” said Kristi Cammack, director of SDSU’s West River Research and Extension. “This cohort style of studying and living can help students succeed by building a support system that can last beyond the program itself.”

Coursework for the program combines American Indian studies, natural resource management, global food systems and leadership. The courses encourage students to evaluate and understand the relationship of care of self, care of community, care of environment and care of culture. Students are encouraged to work together to solve complex problems and also to work on problems that are relevant to them and their communities.

Students had the opportunity to integrate concepts from each of their individual classes into capstone projects that reflected their own self determined learning styles and interests. Rachel Lindvall, SDSU Wizipan coordinator, said, “I was highly impressed to see the level of these projects in each of the classes. Students reflected upon what they had learned in the classroom, in their own investigations, and in the field and applied it cohesively and often insightfully to this work.”

Lindvall said the students frequently expressed their enthusiasm for the opportunities to visit in person, as well as virtually, with knowledgeable guest speakers who were experts in their subject areas, many with an Indigenous perspective. The program also included outdoor field trips that gave new insights to students often not familiar with local natural and agricultural resource bases.

“The spirit of this program is closely aligned with the Wokini initiative at SDSU and helps SDSU expand its efforts to support American Indian student success,” Cammack said. “Students from SDSU and other universities can gather together in the Black Hills, a sacred area that holds a multitude of hands-on learning opportunities for students.”

Classes are taught by instructors from SDSU and The Indian University of North America in an innovative, interdisciplinary, hands-on style emphasizing Indigenous experimental learning through field trips, mentorship, group discussions and collaborative inquiry projects.

Tuition, lodging and a complete meal plan were funded by the Crazy Horse Memorial Foundation for the students. Many students also took advantage of part-time employment opportunities at Crazy Horse Memorial.

“The Wizipan program and the partnership with South Dakota State University are among the ways that Crazy Horse supports and strengthens Native students and communities,” said Laurie Becvar, Crazy Horse Memorial president and chief operating officer. “Generous charitable gifts to the Memorial and its Indian University of North America make it possible to fully fund the program for students.”

To enroll in the program, students ideally are currently enrolled in a degree-granting college, university, technical school or other higher educational institution and are in good academic standing. Preference is extended to enrolled members of Federally Recognized tribes, however admission is open to all qualified students.

Applications for the next class, which will be held during fall 2021, are due May, 1, 2021. The application will be available soon on the Wizipan Leadership and Sustainability Program website at https://www.sdstate.edu/wizipan and at https://crazyhorsememorial.org/story/the-university.

For more information about the program or application, contact Rachel Lindvall, Wizipan leadership and sustainability program coordinator, at rachel.lindvall@sdstate.edu; Kristi Cammack, director of SDSU’s West River Research and Extension, at kristi.cammack@sdstate.edu; or Whitney Rencountre, associate director of enrollment management of The Indian University of North America, at whitney.rencountre@crazyhorse.org.