Thirteen students from Wind River Tribal College in Wyoming recently graduated with a University of Wisconsin Oshkosh bachelor’s degree in education.
Through a 2010 grant from the Office of Indian Education, the Wind River Tribal College established a relationship with the UW Oshkosh College of Education and Human Services.
The tribal college serves primarily nontraditional students from the Northern Arapaho reservation. The collaboration allowed Wind River students the opportunity to earn credits towards a bachelor’s degree in early childhood education while staying on the reservation and remaining in their current jobs.
The grant also supported the students’ books, childcare costs and other expenses associated with earning their education.
Suzanne Doemel, UWO teaching and learning faculty member, and Susan Finkel-Hoffman, interim outreach director for special and early childhood education, were instrumental in getting the program started.
“Working with the two cohorts in Wyoming was a most inspiring and humbling experience,” Doemel said.
Since the internet is unreliable in rural Wyoming, technology for distance and online education wasn’t an option, UW Oshkosh faculty traveled to teach classes.
“We decided, we would go there, be hands-on and build relationships with them, just like we do with our students here at Oshkosh,” Finkel-Hoffman said. “We packed our suitcases.”
Over the years, UW Oshkosh has become an integral part of the Northern Arapaho Teacher Education Program training Native American teachers.
“I am proud of the students who are coming through this program and feel very blessed to have the opportunity to work with the project,” Finkel-Hoffman said.
“My greatest enjoyment came with each group as they completed their education programs,” Doemel said. “We have made a difference in all their lives for the children and families of the Wind River Reservation for generations to come!”