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Montana State University Throws Transit of Venus Viewing Party While Boosting Native Recruitment

Montana State University is taking this opportunity to throw a Transit of Venus party and around the same time is expanding recruitment and retention efforts for Native American students.
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Montana State University (MSU) is making the most of the Transit of Venus by throwing a free and open to the public party on June 5 from 4 to 7 p.m. at the MSU football stadium.

Venus will cross in front of the sun for the final time in more than 100 years, so this event is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

"In a person's lifetime, there are at most two opportunities to see Venus go across the face of the sun. We only have one left," MSU solar physicist David McKenzie said in a release. "The last chance we had was in 2004. The next one will be long after we are dust. I'm pretty excited. I can't wait.”

According to the release, Venus will appear at the edge of the sun just after 4:05 p.m. and will be halfway across the sun around 7:27 p.m. and won’t be visible in the night sky after sunset.

This rare event only occurs every 105 to 121 years because of how the planets orbit at different angles and different speeds. The last time Venus passed in front of the sun was in the 1800s.

"This doesn't happen often. It's a chance to really see first-hand in person the relationship between the planets and our solar system," McKenzie said in the release. "You can look at images and computers, but it's not the same as seeing it in real life."

Read more details about the viewing party here.

Although some in the indigenous world will choose to not watch this rare event, Native American students attending MSU are welcome to, and this year there will be more of them in the potential viewing pool. Last fall Native student enrollment actually jumped by nine percent to a total of 545 students. And those students will be happy to note their university is working on Native recruitment and retention projects.

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The Office of the Provost is distributing $104,000 to projects across the university to bolster recruiting efforts and retention initiatives for Native students.

The projects range from expanding recruitment and orientation events to include students’ families to providing mentors. Suggestions started pouring in after Provost Martha Potvin put out the call for ideas in December.

“We were impressed with the range and breadth of these proposals and how each will contribute to the framework we have already established to encourage and promote the academic success of MSU’s Native American students,” Potvin said in a press release. “We’re also pleased with the innovation and enthusiasm of those who submitted the proposals.”

Over the coming years MSU plans to dedicate $800,000 to support Native American students, and Potvin will be asking for more proposals in the future.

“As we are proud of the programs that we currently have in place that support Native American students, we are also pleased to implement these exciting ideas that will bolster our mission to become the university of choice for Native American students,” Potvin said.

Some of the proposals that will be getting money are continuing programs, while others are new ones.

Walter Fleming, Native American studies department chair, submitted a proposal to extend the Rockin’ the Rez and Native Pathways to Success programs. The programs will receive $14,500 over two years. Rockin’ the Rez was started in 2007 to recruit students from Montana reservations and urban communities. Native enrollment has increased 83 percent since the program started. Native Pathways is an orientation program designed for Native students.

Holly Hunts, professor of health and human development, submitted a proposal to establish a program that will support Native students as they move from high school to a two-year human services degree at a Montana tribal college and then to a degree in family and consumer sciences at MSU. The Creating a Human Services Career Pathway will be funded for $17,000 and will prepare students for careers in social work, counseling or financial planning.

To view a full list of successful programs that will get funding, how much they were awarded and who submitted the proposal, visit the MSU News website.