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Endowment Benefits UW Students Majoring in American Indian, Global and Area Studies

December 20, 2012
Woman standing in front of Moroccan architecture
UW Global and Area Studies student Amanda King visits a building, known for its beautiful doors, in Fez, Morocco. King was studying Arabic there with support from a U.S. Department of State Critical Language Scholarship.

Jordan Dresser and Amanda King have high praise for the experiences they received in interdisciplinary programs at the University of Wyoming, and both know that future students in the programs will have even greater educational opportunities.

That’s because the programs -- Dresser’s is American Indian Studies and King’s is Global & Area Studies -- were selected to receive funding through the Wyoming Excellence in Higher Education Endowment.

Created in 2006 by the Wyoming State Legislature, the endowment brings distinguished scholars and educators to Wyoming. The legislation directed UW to strengthen instruction and research in discplines related to economic and social challenges facing Wyoming.

Both American Indian Studies (AIS) and Global & Area Studies were selected for the funding because they already have shown great potential in service and outreach in the state, says Audrey Shalinsky, associate dean of the UW College of Arts and Sciences. The Excellence Fund support will enhance the visibility of these interdisciplinary programs both on and off campus, she says.

“The American Indian Studies program, which recently began to offer a B.A. degree, is actively involved with individuals and groups on the Wind River Indian Reservation,” Shalinsky says. “The Global & Area Studies Program worked with Wyoming’s community colleges to create more courses with an international focus and has brought a speakers’ program to many locations statewide. The new positions will further strengthen these relationships throughout the state.”

Dresser, who was one of the College of Arts and Sciences’ top 20 students when he received a bachelor of arts degree in journalism in 2008, says he looks forward to the AIS expanding its offerings to the Wind River Indian Reservation.

“The excellence fund is important to not only the University of Wyoming but also the state as a whole, since it will help enrich our community with excellent work from Native American writers, filmmakers and artists,” he says. “Hosting events on the reservation will expose the community to prominent Native American figures who will help engage and promote critical thinking.”

Dresser says AIS was one of his first stops when he enrolled at UW, and knows it is a valuable resource for students.

UW American Indian Studies Program graduate Jordan Dresser was one of the College of Arts and Sciences’ outstanding graduating seniors in 2008.“The staff was incredibly helpful and a great resource in helping get adjusted to university life,” Dresser says. “They go above and beyond to help make the students feel welcome.”

Dresser is a member of the AIS Excellence Fund Committee that will plan for future uses of Excellence Fund support.

King, a Riverton High School graduate, this month received a bachelor of arts degree in international studies, with a concentration in Middle East and African studies. For her work promoting internationalization on campus, King was the 2012 recipient of UW’s Student Award for Internationalization in 2012. She sees the Excellence Endowment as a way to expand an already rich experience for students.

“Students in the Global & Area Studies Program have an insatiable thirst for expanding their knowledge and studying subjects that develop their understanding of a subject in new ways and from new perspectives,” says King, who traveled to Israel, Palestine, Jordan, Egypt and Morocco to represent UW at international conferences and competitions, and to work with the U.S. State Department's Critical Languages program. “What better way to fulfill those students' desires than to bring in visiting scholars who can offer unique and highly informed perspectives on their respective disciplines?”

Building Tribal Nations

Director Judy Antell says the AIS Program will collaborate with UW’s M.F.A. in Creative Writing Program to bring prominent Native American writers to Wyoming during the 2013 academic year. She expects the visiting writers will spend time on the Wind River Indian Reservation and, perhaps, other communities as well.

“These outreach presentations will highlight the unique talents and experience of the writers, and will provide opportunities for dialogue and interaction in Wyoming communities,” she says.

AIS will offer a new special topics course on “Building Tribal Nations,” which will be the theme of a regional symposium April 8-9 at the UW Conference Center at the Hilton Garden Inn. Federal government officials, American Indian leaders, and faculty and students from universities and tribal colleges throughout the region are expected to participate in the symposium.  

“Contributing to the building of tribal nations is an expectation within our discipline. Tribal nation building involves the health and education of tribal members, the revitalization of indigenous languages, economic development, the protection of spiritual beliefs and practices, and much more,” says Antell.

Diplomat in Residence

Global & Area Studies Director Jean Garrison says the Excellence Fund will support a two-day workshop this spring to augment a course following the theme “America and the World in 2020,” in which faculty and students tackle emerging human security challenges that test U.S. foreign policy. Led by individuals who have worked in foreign relations capacities, including positions with the Department of State, Department of Defense and within the White House, the workshop will provide an opportunity to fill a gap between academia and the realities of public policy-making, she says. 

“This workshop takes the insular national security debate from inside the beltway in D.C. out to the heartland and involves our students in the process,” Garrison says.

“We’ve invited people with different areas of expertise to start a meaningful dialogue on what values need to be incorporated into American foreign and security policy,” Garrison adds. “It will be exciting to work to overcome bitter divides to arrive at a consensus about what American foreign policy should be.”

Additionally, the Excellence Fund will support a visiting senior scholar, perhaps a “diplomat in residence” who will engage students, faculty and Wyoming citizens in meaningful international discussions of pressing global issues. Garrison says the program will include additional invited guest speakers, workshops and speaking engagements throughout the state.

Garrison and Antell agree that the Excellence program will expand student opportunities for exposure to diverse voices and more global perspectives about important contemporary issues. They say the initiatives will support UW’s emerging leadership role in the Rocky Mountain West, and students will be better prepared to take on emerging social challenges in local and global contexts.


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