New doctoral program to explore indigenous studies

The program is currently in recruitment stage and will start fall 2019.

Caitlin Anderson

The Department of American Studies will offer a new program next year that will allow doctoral students to pursue indigenous studies.

The program was created through an award given to the department in November in an effort to test out an indigenous studies program at the doctoral level. Six doctoral students will be able to work in a group and explore the field of indigenous studies.

The program is part of Creating Inclusive Cohorts, a larger initiative by the Graduate School Diversity Office to promote diversity. The American Studies department is working with the Race, Indigeneity, Gender and Sexuality Studies Initiative and the American Indian Studies department to develop, recruit and carry out the program.

“We want to train a diverse group of scholars in a cohort-based model. That is absolutely crucial for retention and recruitment and success,” said Karen Ho, director of the RIGS Initiative. “We want to solidify long-standing work that the University has done in this field.”

The American Indian Studies department currently does not have its own graduate program but the new training program in the American Studies department will give doctoral students the opportunity to study the field, Ho said. The cohort, starting fall 2019, will analyze aspects of indigenous studies like land removal, culture, political resistance and structural oppression.The department is currently recruiting doctoral students to participate, with applications closing on Dec. 1.

“It’s our hope that this pilot program will increase and enhance the training experience of these students when they are together as a group,” said Yoji Shimizu, associate dean of graduate education and director of the Graduate School Diversity Office.

Previously called the Graduate School Pilot Recruitment Initiative, the training program was created last year to assist graduate schools in recruiting fellowships and promoting diversity, Shimizu said.

“Having a group of students … that come from diverse backgrounds really helps them feel more included in the graduate program and the community,” Shimizu said.

The Graduate School Diversity Office awarded four additional collaborations with new training programs. The others are in Microbiology, Immunology and Cancer Biology, Biomedical Engineering, Chemistry and Child Psychology.

“It made sense to unite people around an important lens of inquiry [into indigenous studies],” Ho said.

The program is important because it will bring diversity to the American Studies department, said Amber Annis, a citizen of the Cheyenne River Sioux Nation, and a Minnesota Historical Society specialist.

“Going through my undergraduate … one thing that lacked was seeing indigenous people in the field, at universities,” she said.

The University itself occupies indigenous land and is home to one of the largest and most diverse urban indigenous communities in the country, Ho said.

The American Indian Studies Department created a graduate minor this fall to help provide additional learning for graduate students interested in indigenous studies. The department hopes to create its own graduate program in the future, Ho said.

“[This program] developed so that the partnership between American Indian Studies, the RIGS Initiative and American Studies became a recipe that worked,” Ho said.