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New Mexico State University

New Mexico State University

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New Mexico State and tribal leaders unite to ensure success of Native American students

New Mexico State University and two area tribes have agreed to combine their efforts to increase enrollment and academic achievement of Native American students.

uina, governor of the Pueblo of Cochiti, and Claudia Vigil-Muniz, president of the Jicarilla Apache Tribe, are expected to formalize the relationship by signing a memorandum of understanding Thursday, Sept. 25, at the Jicarilla Apache Indian Reservation in Dulce. The signing will be from 11:30 a.m. to noon.

"This is just the beginning," said Don Pepion, director of the American Indian Program at NMSU. "We've reached agreements in principle with most of the tribes in New Mexico, and we hope that we will be in a place of total agreement with all of them soon."

The collaboration between the university and the tribes will help address retention and recruitment issues, and ensure the academic success of Native American students.

To achieve success, NMSU and the tribes will work together to attain several goals including working with state legislators to establish tuition waivers for members of the tribes; recognizing that the tribes will work to attain a Native American appointment to the NMSU Board of Regents and developing an American Indian student tracking system that provides an annual report of data and findings.

"A major concern for all of our students is the funding," said Darlene Smart-Herrera, the education programs manager for the Cochiti Pueblo. "This (collaboration) will help all the tribes involved by helping at least one student from each of the tribes attend New Mexico State if they want."

Smart-Herrera added: "We hope the collaboration will lead to additional staff for the American Indian Program at NMSU and the development of a Tribal Advisory Committee."

There are more than 400 Native American students enrolled at New Mexico State. Students are able to participate in a variety of activities including the United Native American Organization (UNAO), the Native American Business Student Association (NABSA) and the American Indian Science and Engineering Society (AISES). Students are also able to complete a minor in American Indian Studies, an academic resource for information and understanding about American Indian peoples.

New Mexico is home to more than 147,000 Indian citizens. The state also boasts the largest number of American Indian land-based nations.

New Mexico State officials will be meeting with the New Mexico Tribal Higher Education Commission Thursday, Sept. 25, and Friday, Sept. 26, to further discuss the memorandums of understanding. Officials anticipate another signing of MOUs in January 2004.

For more information on the American Indian Program, contact Pepion at (505) 646-3196.