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Launching the American Indian Research and Education Initiative

July 27, 2011 - 5:22pm

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American Indian communities are uniquely situated in the matrix of energy production and energy use. Tribal lands are often repositories of coal, oil and uranium, and have tremendous untapped energy potential in wind, hydropower and solar resources. However, Tribal Lands are also home to the highest rates for fuel and electricity, and have the highest percentage of un-electrified and un-weatherized homes.

These issues create significant need and significant opportunity to promote energy literacy and to develop scientific and technological skills in Tribal communities to help manage their lands and develop energy resources.

That’s why we began a unique partnership between the American Indian Higher Education Consortium and the American Indian Science and Engineering Society to bring science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) research and education funding to American Indian students at our Nation’s Tribal Colleges and Universities and other universities.

Through this pilot program, the resources of the Energy Department – including technology and research capabilities, equipment and staff – will be matched with the drive of American Indian students to assist Tribal communities in developing and managing energy resources. Over the next three years, the Energy Department will provide a record-high amount of funding to tribal students.

Funds will be used to recruit American Indian students to join student/faculty teams that will engage in community energy projects on Tribal lands with the mentorship and technological savvy of the Department’s National Laboratories. A new two week Energy Science Institute will be formed to offer courses and workshops. And a mentor pool of National Laboratory personnel will be on hand to guide American Indian Research and Education Initiative faculty and student participants in education, research and career topics. Solicitation for Tribal Colleges and Universities and members of the American Indian Science and Engineering Society will be released in mid-August.

We’re calling this pilot program the American Indian Research and Education Initiative, and we hope it is just the start of a more integrated approach to connecting our Nation’s American Indian students with our National Laboratories and the American Indian Higher Education Consortium (AIHEC) and the American Indian Science and Engineering Society (AISES), both of which have significant roles in promoting American Indian higher education and creating a life-long interest in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. AIHEC will work closely with the Tribal Colleges and Universities, and AISES will focus on connecting with their member institutions to engage them in this program.

This partnership, established with the backing of the White House Initiative on Tribal Colleges and Universities and the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Economic Impact and Diversity and Office of Science, is a significant push toward this vision.

For more information about this program, visit http://diversity.energy.gov.

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