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Guest Blog: Lee Snapp- Developing, Implementing, and Sustaining Engineering Curricula at Tribal Colleges and Universities (TCUs)

February 21, 2012

This is a post in the STEMconnector™ guest blog series, featuring Lee Snapp, Director of the Tribal Colleges and Universities (TCU) Engineering Initiative.

In 2002 eleven of the nation’s 37 tribal colleges and universities (TCUs) began a new initiative in undergraduate engineering education. Realizing that engineering education was an idea whose time had come in Native America, these eleven colleges formed the TCU Engineering Working Group to develop, implement, and sustain engineering, engineering technology, and pre-engineering curricula at their respective institutions.


Since its inception, the Working Group has been guided by a single vision: to serve the partners’ communities by educating a well-prepared and professional engineering workforce. The partners intend to offer engineering, engineering technology, and pre- engineering curricula that build true professional excellence, and they seek to provide learning environments in which Native American students thrive.


These small colleges are already having outstanding successes. In June 2009 Salish Kootenai College presented the first baccalaureate degree in engineering ever awarded by a tribal college, a BS in Computer Engineering. Between 2009 and 2011 the partners have admitted students to five new engineering technology and pre-engineering programs, with more planned. Over the past several years faculty and students have participated with NASA in projects ranging from contributions to the design of the next generation of space suits to cameras on board the Mars Science Laboratory.


The eleven members of the partnership are Blackfeet Community College, Browning, MT; Chief Dull Knife College, Lame Deer, MT; College of Menominee Nation, Keshena, WI; Fort Berthold Community College, New Town, ND; Haskell Indian Nations University, Lawrence, KS; Navajo Technical College, Crownpoint, NM; Salish Kootenai College, Pablo, MT; Sitting Bull College, Fort Yates, ND; Southwestern Indian Polytechnic Institute, Albuquerque, NM; United Tribes Technical College, Bismarck, ND; and White Earth Tribal and Community College, Mahnomen, MN. The group welcomes new opportunities that allow curriculum improvements and new faculty and student opportunities. The group continues to seek, and values highly, partnerships with industry, to include research opportunities, internships, and opportunities for eventual employment.

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