University of Rochester

Rochester Summit Explores State of Native American Education

August 16, 2010

This month, several dozen University of Rochester faculty, staff, and students will meet with leaders of the Native American community to discuss the needs of Native American students pursuing higher education. A first for the University, the summit, which will be held on Tuesday, Aug. 17, from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., is designed to educate the Rochester community about Native American heritage and culture, and how to best support students on campus.

"Rochester-area Native history already offers extraordinary insights about today's biggest problems such as sustainability and intercultural dialogue," said Jonathan Burdick, dean of admissions and financial aid at Rochester. "To maximize everyone's benefit from that strength, the University is seeking greater collaboration with today's local Native students, educators, and leaders."

The summit will include a lecture on the history of Native American education, performances by local dance troupe the Ganondagan Spirit Dancers, a keynote address by Stephanie Waterman, professor of educational leadership at the University's Warner School of Education, and a panel presentation given by members of the six Iroquois Nations. In addition, college officials from Cornell University, the Rochester Institute of Technology, and SUNY Fredonia will discuss the initiatives, programs, and resources available to Native American students on their campuses.

The summit is part of a larger effort to recruit and retain Native American students; Native Americans currently make up less than 1 percent of the student population at Rochester. In spring 2010, the University began a partnership with College Horizons, a nonprofit organization that designs pre-college programs aimed at preparing Native American students for higher education.

The University participated in three College Horizons summer programs this year, sending representatives to the University of Hawaii in Hilo, Hawaii, Lawrence University in Appleton, Wis., and the University of Puget Sound in Tacoma, Wash. Each program introduces students to different colleges and universities, offers workshops on writing admissions essays and personal statements, and conducts sessions on standardized tests including the SAT and ACT. The University successfully earned a bid to host one of the five-day programs in summer 2011.

"It's great that the University wants to build a closer relationship with a community that is such an important part of this area and this country," said Christopher Bethmann, a sophomore majoring in international relations and Spanish at the University. "The Summit is a wonderful way for the University to start cultivating Native American culture on campus and to learn from the many voices represented."