Kellogg Foundation awards grant to Prairie Ph.D. program

Kellogg Foundation awards grant to Prairie Ph.D. program South Dakota State University's innovative Prairie Ph.D. program has won a $200,000 grant from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation to help the first students in the program finish their degrees.

Prairie Ph.D. is a first-of-its kind program that provides a means for tribal college faculty and tribal professionals to earn graduate degrees in the biological sciences. The program began in fall 2003.

Nineteen people are currently enrolled in Prairie Ph.D. The first students in the program will complete their master's degrees in December 2004, or their doctorates in 2006.

Tim Nichols, assistant director of academic programs for SDSU's College of Agriculture and Biological Sciences, said the Kellogg Foundation grant will go for tuition scholarships, student and faculty travel, and student research projects.

It's the second major grant the program has received, Nichols said. A USDA Higher education Challenge Grant helped establish the program. In addition, an earlier Kellogg Foundation grant of $25,000 helped SDSU plan how to work

more closely with tribal colleges.

Prairie Ph.D. is different from most conventional academic programs in several ways. One is that it uses a cohort system. That means a group of students moves through a curriculum together, getting support and encouragement from one another.

"Another thing that is different is the delivery mechanism. Rather than coming and living on campus, the students get their courses in intensive, week-long short courses via Internet, via interactive television, or a combination of those different kinds of methods."

Nichols added that the program also has a cultural component. "American Indian perspectives are reflected in the curriculum and in the students' research projects. They're studying things that are important to their people, their tribes, their communities."

SDSU professor Diane Rickerl, who works closely with the program, said that research will help expand knowledge into areas important to native peoples.

Rickerl added that one of the courses in the Prairie Ph.D. curriculum � traditionally offered each spring semester at SDSU � is a course called "International Experience." As part of that course, Prairie Ph.D. students will get the chance to visit a university in Bolivia that has close working ties with SDSU.

"The thing that's particularly relevant about this university is that it was modeled after the land-grant universities in the United States, and it was established specifically for the indigenous populations of Bolivia," Rickerl said. "It will give our students the opportunity to visit another university

that, in its design and in its vision, is very much like the tribal colleges we have in South Dakota."

Learn more about the W.K. Kellogg Foundation at its Web site, http://www.wkkf.org/.

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