The big picture

UND seeks to serve American Indian students through implementation of strategic plan

UND American Indian Center

In the wake of transition at UND’s American Indian Student Services, rather than focusing on organizational structure, UND Vice President of Student Affairs & Diversity Cara Halgren said she and her staff have been spending a lot of time looking at academics and services, how they fit into the strategic plan (Goal No. 5, fostering an inclusive campus climate), and how they could be improved. UND Archival image.

UND is looking at the big picture when it comes to serving American Indian students.

Since former director Leigh Jeanotte retired last summer, conversations about services and programs have been ongoing with students, staff and stakeholders.

“We are looking at how we offer all services and program regarding diversity and inclusion, and to identify the best structural way to offer the services students need with the greatest efficiency, while also being responsible stewards of funding,” said Cara Halgren, vice president for student affairs & diversity.

Rather than focusing on organizational structure, Halgren said, she and her staff have been spending a lot of time looking at academics and services, how they fit into the strategic plan (goal 5, fostering an inclusive campus climate), and how they could be improved. That includes retention and recruitment.

“In light of the strategic plan, we have an opportunity to think about the work we’re doing,” Halgren said. “It’s our responsibility to do the work of the strategic plan in a way that most benefits students, to be good stewards of resources, as well as to increase recruitment and retention of students.”

Leigh Jeanotte

Longtime leader of UND’s American Indian Student Services Leigh Jeanotte retired last summer. UND archival image.

Visiting tribal colleges

Those conversations have included visits to four tribal colleges to talk with tribal leaders and members. Six members of the UND and Grand Forks community – Linda Neuerburg, interim director, American Indian Student Services; Keith Malaterre, coordinator for diversity & inclusion retention and success initiatives, Multicultural Programs & Services; Stacey Borboa-Peterson, director of Multicultural Programs & Services; Jason Trainer, director of admissions; Pete Haga, city administrator, Grand Forks; and Halgren – visited tribal colleges and leaders last fall.

Cara Halgren

Cara Halgren

The goal was to find out how to better serve American Indian students and tribal communities. They discussed transfers between UND and tribal institutions, graduation rates and more.

For example, Halgren said, tribal leaders told them that some students come to UND and ultimately leave without earning their degree. And they learned that some credits at tribal colleges don’t transfer well to UND.

That led to action.

“We talked with Scott Correll, the University registrar, about ways students can move between tribal institutions and UND, and take classes and credits appropriately to complete their degrees,” Halgren said. She added that they are working on clear articulation agreements that detail how credits transfer.

It’s also leading to more outreach.

“We want to go back and identify American Indian students who started but didn’t complete their degrees at UND,” Halgren said. “We want to reach out to them and see if there’s a path for these students to come back and finish.”

UND has recently changed degree requirements for students, making it easier to graduate.

“For example, we used to require that 60 credits had to be earned at UND,” Halgren said. “That requirement has been reduced to 30 credits. Do these changes make it easier for students to come back and finish?

“If it’s easier to complete a degree now, we want students to be aware of it and take advantage of the opportunity,” Halgren said.

Halgren said they are being thoughtful about changes in the program.

“We’re moving closer to an organizational structure,” she said. “We have spent a lot of time figuring out how to move the needle with the strategic plan, and I believe this will benefit American Indian students on campus.”