Arizona State, Cronkite Journalism debuts two new Native education initiatives

Debra Krol

Journalism professorship explores Native American media coverage. New Online master’s degree in Indigenous education

Arizona State University has announced two new programs in its Southwest Borderlands Initiative to include a program-specific professor, who will focus on Native journalism research and student recruitment, and an online master’s degree program in Indigenous education, which will allow tribal citizens to obtain a graduate education degree and remain home.

Southwest Borderlands Initiative Professor

ASU’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication is conducting a nationwide search for its newest Southwest Borderlands Initiative Professor, whose mission will focus on how the media covers and portrays Natives with an eye to improvement.

The successful candidate will join three other nationally-acclaimed news leaders who are the core of ASU’s Southwest Borderlands Initiative, which serves peoples of the Southwest through research, education, and service.

“Newsrooms have struggled with diversity in general,” says Cronkite School Dean Christopher Callahan. Native coverage is a particularly challenging issue for mainstream newsrooms … Mainstream coverage [of Native issues] is infrequent and at times it lacks nuance and perspective.”

Callahan says ASU’s solution is to “Help prepare our students in how to cover Native American issues,” and that the new professor will be a “thought leader,” by shining a light on Native coverage issues. Callahan also says the professor will focus on recruiting more Native students to journalism careers and hands-on instruction, Callahan. The professor will also support Cronkite News, the school’s student-run news outlet, which regularly reports on Indian Country issues.

Since the American Society of News Editors reports that just 0.36 percent of newsroom employees throughout the United States identify as Native, Callahan sees this new position as supporting the growth of Native journalists that could potentially grow into newsroom leaders.

The statistics of Native newsroom leaders are only slightly better at 0.56 percent of all editorial positions in the U.S.

“This professor is a major step along the way,” he says.

ASU began the search Monday, Feb. 4.

Indigenous students won’t have to relocate to Tempe, Arizona, to pursue a master’s degree in Indigenous education, thanks to a new online program from Arizona State University. [photo courtesy Arizona State University]

Indigenous Education Master’s Degree Program

Across the mall, ASU’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences welcomed its first class of students into the new Indigenous education master’s degree program. The completely online program will enable students to stay home while pursuing a graduate degree, says Bryan Brayboy, Lumbee.

Brayboy is the interim director of the School of Social Transformation at the liberal arts school as well as a special advisor to Crow on American Indian affairs and a Southwest Borderlands professor.

In contrast to some packaged curriculum programs, ASU’s Indigenous education program provides a foundation upon which educators can build at the local level. “My own thinking is that ‘all cultures are local,’” says Brayboy. “We’re working to provide students with a broad understanding of Native history and the principles and history of Indian education.”

The students also will come away from the program with expertise in Indigenous knowledge systems, issues of Indigenous language and culture, American Indian education policy, American Indians in higher education and critical Indigenous research methodologies, according to the course descriptions. They’ll write policy briefs and be able to create succession planning models, which aligns with the university-wide Borderlands Initiative.

Brayboy says that the master’s degree could serve as tribal nation building. “Kids do well when they someone like them in the classroom,” he says.

The program is also expected to help solve another thorny issue in Indian Country—brain drain. Too often, students leave their communities to pursue higher education, but never return. That’s a big loss of capacity to tribes.

“Our people need educations, and we’re trying to fill that need so they don’t have to leave their home communities,” says Brayboy, who says that the online Indigenous education master’s degree program is another step what ASU President Michael Crow calls “supporting tribal nations in futures of their own making.”