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University of Arkansas establishes new position to serve Indigenous students

The University of Arkansas' flagship campus in Fayetteville is seen in this file photo.
University of Arkansas
Courtesy photo
The University of Arkansas' flagship campus in Fayetteville is seen in this file photo.

From the Arkansas Advocate:

The University of Arkansas, Fayetteville and the Indigenous Food and Agriculture Initiative (IFAI) on Wednesday announced the creation of a new grant-funded position focused on supporting Native American students.

Funded through a U.S. Department of Agriculture Tribal New Beginnings Grant, the Native American Student Services director “will play a central role in enhancing the overall college experience for U of A Native American students,” according to a press release.

“Investing in the next generation of Native American food and agriculture leaders is an integral part of the broader mission of IFAI, which exists to address the unique needs and challenges of Native American communities through research and educational support,” said Erin Parker, executive director of the Indigenous Food and Agriculture Initiative.

The program is a partnership between Marty Matlock, professor of biological and agricultural engineering in the College of Engineering, and the Indigenous Food and Agriculture Initiative, which “provides Tribal governments, producers and food businesses with educational resources, policy research and strategic legal analysis as a foundation for building robust food economies,” according to its website.

IFAI youth coordinator Summer Wilkie said the creation of the director position is a testament to the university’s “unwavering commitment to fostering a supportive, empowering educational environment for all its students.”

“IFAI is grateful for the opportunity to support this position, which aims to ensure students have resources, guidance and community necessary to thrive academically, personally and professionally,” Wilkie said.

According to fall enrollment numbers, 266 students or 0.8% of the student population identify as American Indian or Alaska Native.

The grant also provides funding for internship opportunities and support for establishing an official on-campus program charged with increasing Native American student enrollment and improving the Native American graduation rate from 63% to 90% by 2028, according to the press release.

Applications are being accepted for the position, which will have a salary of $50,000.

Antoinette Grajeda is a multimedia journalist who has reported since 2007 on a wide range of topics, including politics, health, education, immigration and the arts for NPR affiliates, print publications and digital platforms. A University of Arkansas alumna, she earned a bachelor’s degree in print journalism and a master’s degree in documentary film.