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Katarina Rothhorn
Katarina Rothhorn
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The North Wind is an independent student publication serving the Northern Michigan University community. It is partially funded by the Student Activity Fee. The North Wind digital paper is published daily during the fall and winter semesters except on university holidays and during exam weeks. The North Wind Board of Directors is composed of representatives of the student body, faculty, administration and area media.

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Women’s spring soccer comes to an end this weekend
Lily GouinApril 19, 2024

Native American studies major proposed, approved by Academic Senate, ASNMU

Faculty and students at the Center for Native American Studies (CNAS) hope that by Fall 2016, incoming students will be able to major in Native American studies, making NMU the first school in Michigan to offer such a baccalaureate degree.

This program has been years in the making.

With the new degree, the center would add a new faculty member, a new capstone course focused on Native American studies critical theory and an introductory class introduced into Freshman Year Experience blocks.

April Lindala is the director of the center and has wanted to see a Native American studies major since she came back to NMU. She received her bachelors and masters degrees at NMU.

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“This is something that we’ve talked about as a team of faculty and folks working at the Center for Native American Studies, including myself for some time and even when I was interviewed for the position back in [2007] that was something we really hoped to see happen in a time frame that maybe would have been sooner than this,” Lindala said.

Martin Reinhardt is an assistant professor at the CNAS and an enrolled citizen of the Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians. He is also the first CNAS member of Academic Senate.

“I’ve been wanting to see a Native American studies major since the early 1990s anywhere in Michigan,” Reinhardt said. “Of course, here we are, 2015, and we still don’t have a major, but we’re right on the precipice and we’re either going to take off or we’re going to sink. At this point, I think we have some hope and the faculty really back it. We have some pretty clear support from the tribal communities. Faculty on Academic Senate support it unanimously, so now it comes down to the Educational Policy Committee, and ultimately its an administrative decision.”

The major received unanimous approval from both Academic Senate and ASNMU.

Ana Lucia Fernandez is a junior environmental studies student with a minor in Native American studies.

“It’s really taught me about diversity in ways I haven’t found anywhere else in the university,” Fernandez said. “The NAS minor teaches me about the cultural aspects of where I live, in the U.P., and in the environmental aspect.”

Lindala feels the degree would strengthen students in an array of academic fields.

“The major is going to enhance students’ academic career goals in many ways,” she said. “I think about how it aligns with folks in political science, it aligns with folks in environmental studies, how it aligns with even the needs and desires in social work, education and nursing. What we’ve seen at other universities is that students don’t necessarily leave their academic discipline, but will add a double major to strengthen their own skillset in what they’re trying to do.”

As with any other additions to curriculum, finances and enrollment are at the center of the issue. But Reinhardt thinks any time is a good time to pull in new students.

“They’re going to come up with many reasons for why it’s not a feasible thing to do right now,” Reinhardt said. “It’s probably going to come down to the enrollment projections. Everything seems to come down to enrollment. What we’re offering is an opportunity to increase enrollment. So a little bit of investment into this could bring a lot of good things to NMU. So if we’re talking about enrollment, the kind of outreach we can do in Native communities could definitely increase our enrollment.”

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