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Penn state American Indian Leadership Program turns 40

UNIVERSITY PARK, Penn. – Penn State University’s American Indian Leadership Program has kicked off events to celebrate 40 continuous years of honing leadership qualities in Native graduate and doctoral students pursuing careers in education.

Events lined up to celebrate the milestone began late September, with events planned for the entire 2009 – 2010 academic year. AILP is located in the College of Education’s Department of Education Policy Studies.

This fall, the program welcomed 12 graduate fellows pursuing master’s degrees in educational leadership, while earning principal certification. Out of this new cohort, 10 have received educational funding through a $960,000 grant from the Office of Indian Education, an office of the U.S. Department of Education.

AILP Co-Director John Tippeconnic and Susan Faircloth, assistant professor of education, spoke at the opening presentation Sept. 30. Faircloth, Coharie, shared information about the events planned for the year.

Tippeconnic, Comanche, shared some history on the program, while offering insight on Native people to the 50 mostly non-Native attendees.

“I wanted to let them know that we are not relics from the past. With over 200 languages being spoken, that really lends to the diversity and complexity of it all for education, and how we deal with that diversity in leadership education, or when we teach students in schools.”

Susan Faircloth, Penn State University assistant professor of education.

Later that day, Winona LaDuke, founder of White Earth Land Recovery Project and well known for her environmental activism in Indian country, drew about 100 people on the keynote speech, “Creating a Multicultural Democracy: Religion, Culture and Identity.”

In line with diversity, AILP has invited the “Tradition is My Life: Education is My Future” art exhibit, which features artwork of more than 20 American Indian and Alaska Native K-12 students. They entered an annual contest sponsored by the Office of Indian Education.

Winning entries were selected from students that represent 175 tribes and clans in 34 states. Winners were chosen based on their ability to artistically interpret the connectedness of education and culture. The exhibit runs through Oct. 25 in the Diversity Studies Room, on the first floor of the Pattee Library.

The exhibit will also travel to museums and educational institutions across the country, including the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, D.C.

An alumni reception was scheduled during the National Indian Education Association conference at the Hyatt Regency Milwaukee Oct. 23. “Since Penn State is such a big football school, we are having a tailgate themed reception, hoping that we can bring back our alumni and other friends of the program,” Faircloth said.

On Nov. 3, AILP will host a Leadership Forum on Indian Education, and expect four prominent figures in Indian country to lend their scholarly views on various aspects of American Indian and Alaska Native educational issues. They will each write a paper on their topic and present it at the forum.

Wayne Stein, Chippewa, a professor of Native American Studies at Montana State University, is slated to share about leadership in the tribal college movement; Susan Banks-Joseph, an associate professor from the Department of Teaching and Learning at Washington State University, will focus on leadership in Special Education; and Grayson Noley, Choctaw, a professor in the American Indian Leadership in School Administration at the University of Oklahoma will talk about leadership preparation.

“What’s special about those three individuals is that they are all graduates of our program; Dr. Noley was both a graduate and former director of the program,” Faircloth said.

Tarajean Yazzie-Mintz, Navajo, an assistant professor of curriculum studies from Indiana University didn’t graduate from Penn State, but has collaborated with AILP on a few initiatives in the past, and plans to speak on leadership in curriculum.

In the spring, they plan on hosting a presentation given by Dr. Linda Sue Warner, Comanche, president of Haskell Indian Nations University and an AILP alumna; and Dr. Sandy Grande, Quechua, associate professor of education at Connecticut College and author of the book “Red Pedagogy.”

The students are planning to host monthly sessions where they can share their current work with researchers and professors. They also expect John Sanchez, Yaqui/Apache, associate professor from Penn State’s College of Communication – and one of the few Native faculty members on campus – to give a speech on Native identity in the near future.

About 220 students have earned their master’s and/or doctoral degrees via the AILP. “We’ve had a pretty significant success rate with graduating people from our program,” Faircloth said. “Many of them have gone on to take leadership roles across the country.”