A crown jewel of South Dakota State University’s campus opened amid the COVID-19 pandemic. The 12,000-square-foot American Indian Student Center in the center of campus began dedicated cultural programming, student advising and providing offices and resources for AISC staff. The facility includes a state-of-the art classroom, multipurpose room and technology resources.
The primary focus of the center during the fall semester was helping American Indian students stay connected with their classes, faculty members and other students during the pandemic. While many were on campus, the center created a “home away from home” atmosphere—even under COVID-19 guidelines—for American Indian students.
The center’s staff also had a critical role in helping students connect to their academic opportunities when the university went online to complete the final six weeks of the spring 2020 semester. They helped students find places to live, ways to access the internet and helped provide laptops for students to continue their studies.
Erica Moore, AISC director, and Morgan Catlett-Ausborn, academic and success adviser, held weekly virtual programming during the spring, which allowed students to join via a Zoom call, have social interaction and receive updates despite the physical distance from campus. The staff also worked with several students who chose to stay on campus to finish the semester.
Once the fall semester began, Moore and her staff began providing hybrid programming for the students, starting with an early orientation program done in small groups and via Zoom. The center hosted programming on Indigenous People’s Day that included the first Missing Murdered Indigenous Women’s Walk on the SDSU campus and a sex trafficking workshop via Zoom.
The center offered monthly events with the Office of Multicultural Affairs, including panel discussions focused on professional development around “Build Your Own Brand” and “Professionals of Color.”
Additionally, Catlett-Ausborn held weekly meetings with students, both by Zoom or in a safe, socially distanced environment and the center provided emergency resources for students in need for both COVID-19 and nonpandemic-related concerns.