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Soaring rates of Native American graduates rank NEO among top degree producers nationwide

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Miami, Okla. – Tuesday, Nov. 4, 2014 – Officials at Northeastern Oklahoma A&M College (NEO) are thrilled to announce Diverse Issues in Higher Education published their annual rankings of colleges that graduate the greatest number of Native Americans nationwide and NEO's rankings climbed in every degree program category. The American Indian Center for Excellence (AICE), implemented four years ago, continues to serve as a catalyst for that growth. NEO now ranks 2nd in conferring nursing degrees, 5th in granting psychology degrees and 6th in producing health-related degree completers. The number of Native Americans earning health related degrees increased by 25% from last year's cohort. The college ranked higher in the social science, allied health, business and liberal arts categories, as well.

Fueling the growing number of graduates, Native Americans now comprise 23% of NEO's total student population. Prior to AICE, enrollment figures ranged from 18-20 percent. According to president, Dr. Jeff Hale, “NEO's vision is to be recognized as a national leader. The recent results published in Diverse Issues in Higher Education certainly indicate that the college should be viewed as a national leader in American Indian education. These results happen because of strong partnerships with our area tribes and hard work by our talented staff in the NEO American Indian Center for Excellence. We should celebrate today but tomorrow make our commitment to excellence even stronger.”

In reaction to the recently released rankings, Chief of the Peoria tribe and AICE advisory board member, John Froman, said “AICE is doing an exceptionally good job of preparing Native American students for transfer as well as grooming them for leadership positions in the Native community”.

Institutional survey data indicates that 92% of Native graduates believe NEO strongly supports American Indian students and promotes cultural awareness. One such graduate, Robynn Rulo, transferred to Oklahoma State University this year. According to Rulo, “AICE provided a nurturing and supportive environment which allowed me to practice and share my Osage culture and traditions at the college. Through AICE, I was afforded many opportunities to develop leadership skills."

Last year, AICE:

  • Served as the first two year college to host the Oklahoma Native American Students in Higher Education (ONASHE) conference. 
  • Assisted students in their participation in the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) annual convention opening ceremony. 
  • Established a Native Day of Service to expose area middle school students to cultural practices/arts. 
  • Partnered with the Fine Arts department and mass communications faculty to produce the world premiere of a play that explored themes of removal, loss, shared history and cultural identity. 
  • Developed an e-course for faculty to share resources related to the Native Ways of Knowing (NWOK) culturally aligned pedagogy. 
  • Hosted guest lecturers: Dr. Ben Madley, UCLA history professor and expert on the genocide of the Modoc tribe; Leon Hawzipta, Native storyteller; Dr. Jack Conrad, paleontologist and curator for the American Museum of Natural History; Sherman Alexie, Native author/poet/filmmaker 
  • Director, Claudia Little Axe, presented at the World Indigenous People Conference on Education (WIPCE) in Hawaii. 
  • Hosted executive officials from the University of Illinois. 
  • Purchased digital space and equipment needed to archive cultural/language preservation projects and to create digital storytelling content. 
  • Held 2nd annual graduate pinning ceremony.

“I am extremely pleased in the direct impact of our Center on Native graduation and transfer rates,” said AICE director, Claudia Little Axe. “I am a strong supporter of Native American Education; it is my passion, and I hope the job I do and true belief I have in our students will be reflected in continued positive outcomes.”

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