May 11, 2020
Expanding opportunities, access, support key parts of graduate partnership
WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — When Kyle Dahlin started his master’s degree at Purdue University in August 2013, he knew he would need a network to help support him far away from his home in Hawaii.
Now, Dahlin, a first-generation college student in his family, is graduating this spring from Purdue with a doctorate in mathematical biology and going on to become a postdoctoral researcher at the Odum School of Ecology at the University of Georgia.
Dahlin found the network he needed by becoming a Sloan Indigenous Graduate Partnership (SIGP) Scholar. The SIGP is funded by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation to increase the number of indigenous Americans obtaining advanced degrees in STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) disciplines. Purdue has 20 current participating students and 42 program alumni from more than 60 tribal communities.
Dahlin said the program, which included weekly gatherings among the students to network and share, helped him learn what it means to be part of a community, especially with other indigenous students who come from all across the United States.
“We are all different as much as we are alike,” Dahlin said.
Dahlin’s research on modeling avian malaria in Hawaiian forest birds was intensive, but he believes that his perseverance will encourage other Hawaiians to pursue higher education.
“I’m motivated by what I see back home and how I can help address those issues,” said Dahlin, whose goal is to return to Hawaii and work for ecological organizations in the public or private sectors. “There are a lot of doors that could open for me.”
One of the campus groups that helped Dahlin and other scholars was the Native American Educational and Cultural Center. Dahlin credits the work of the center and its director, Felica Ahasteen-Bryant, for helping him during his time at Purdue.
“They have provided an environment for our community. I learned that I need to interact with people of all ages – undergraduates to faculty – and the center helped with that,” he said.
The Sloan Foundation recently announced a four-year, $4.5 million partnership with Purdue; the University of Alaska Anchorage; the University of Alaska Fairbanks; the University of Arizona; the University of Montana; Montana State University; Montana Technological University; and SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry. The University of North Carolina Asheville has joined the SIGP network in an initiative to increase the recruitment of undergraduate students from southeastern tribes into SIGP institutions. More than 200 students have graduated through SIGP, many of whom provide service to their tribal communities and contribute to diversity and inclusion efforts in their institutions and professions.
“We feel very fortunate that, with the renewed funding from the Sloan Foundation, we will be able to continue to support indigenous graduate students at Purdue and the other SIGP institutions,” said Kevin Gibson, director of the Sloan Indigenous Graduate Partnership at Purdue, a professor of botany and plant pathology and dean’s fellow in the Purdue Graduate School.
“The Sloan Foundation is very pleased to renew support for the Sloan Indigenous Graduate Partnership and to congratulate professor Kevin Gibson and his colleagues across the SIGP for the strong progress they have shown and the promising plans they developed for the next four years,” said Elizabeth S. Boylan, Sloan program director. “The American higher education system and the national STEM need these SIGP graduates holding master’s and doctoral degrees. We are proud of their professional accomplishments as well as their records of providing many forms of support to their native communities.”
About Purdue University
Purdue University is a top public research institution developing practical solutions to today’s toughest challenges. Ranked the No. 6 Most Innovative University in the United States by U.S. News & World Report, Purdue delivers world-changing research and out-of-this-world discovery. Committed to hands-on and online, real-world learning, Purdue offers a transformative education to all. Committed to affordability and accessibility, Purdue has frozen tuition and most fees at 2012-13 levels, enabling more students than ever to graduate debt-free. See how Purdue never stops in the persistent pursuit of the next giant leap at purdue.edu.
Writer: Matthew Oates, 765-586-7496 (cell), email@example.com, @mo_oates
Sources: Kevin Gibson, firstname.lastname@example.org
Kyle Dahlin, email@example.com
Note to Journalists: Photos of Kyle Dahlin are available on a Google Drive.