Partnership for Native Student Success

July 29, 2008

Grants Awarded to Increase College Readiness and Postsecondary School Success among Native Students

Nearly $1 Million given by Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the National Science Foundation and the Lumina Foundation to Support Partnership for Native Student Success at Muckleshoot Tribal College.

Olympia, Wash. – The Partnership for Native American College Access and Success—a collaboration of five Washington state higher education institutions—has received $292,000 from the Gates Foundation, $195,000 from the Lumina Foundation and nearly $500,000 from the National Science Foundation to strengthen postsecondary curriculum for Native students in Washington and create a clear pathway to a bachelor’s degree for Native Americans in Muckleshoot and Tulalip communities.

Grants from the Gates Foundation and the Lumina Foundation will support the two-year effort, which began in June 2008. The work builds upon ongoing work through The Evergreen State College’s Enduring Legacies Project, which established the initial partnership between Evergreen and Grays Harbor College to serve reservation-based students. That project also developed teaching resources and culturally relevant curriculum in the form of case studies on key issues in Indian country.

The partnership includes Antioch University, The Evergreen State College, Grays Harbor College, Muckleshoot Tribal College, and Northwest Indian College. It will use lessons learned in the process to suggest a policy agenda to improve preparation for college and seek greater public investment in postsecondary education for Native students in Washington. A report on Indian education in Washington will be produced for wide distribution under these grants. Among other things, the new report will provide up-to-date information on programs available to serve Native students across the state.

According to Michelle Aguilar-Wells, co-director on the grants and director of Evergreen’s Reservation-Based Community-Determined Program, the project represents an unusually deep partnership between institutions. “What brings us together,” she says, “is our commitment to high-quality education for Native students.” Antioch University has offered the only Native teacher education program in the state at Muckleshoot Tribal College for some years. In the fall, Antioch will expand the graduate programs offered. “Evergreen provides a strong program leading to a bachelor’s degree that prepares students for various careers in public service within or outside of tribal communities,” says Aguilar-Wells. Northwest Indian College and Grays Harbor College provide the foundational lower-division coursework with Grays Harbor College emphasizing online courses. “By working together,” adds Aguilar-Wells, “we can strengthen all of our programs.”

“We have been developing strong and diverse programs through partnerships since our start in 1996,” said Louie Gong, educational resource coordinator at Muckleshoot Tribal College. “But these new grants will take the concept of partnership to a whole new level,” he adds.

One of the innovations that will begin in the fall is a joint writing center that students in all of the different programs can use. “There’s just nothing like this elsewhere, and we’re really excited about it,” adds Gong.

Cheryl Crazy Bull, president of Northwest Indian College, said that the project provides many opportunities for their tribal college. “We will be exploring new approaches to education, especially in the first year of college, which is so critical to student success. And we will also be looking at how to improve inter-institutional advising and administrative functions from a student and tribal point of view.”

About the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

Guided by the belief that every life has equal value, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation works to help all people lead healthy, productive lives. In developing countries, it focuses on improving people’s health and giving them the chance to lift themselves out of hunger and extreme poverty. In the United States, it seeks to ensure that all people—especially those with the fewest resources—have access to the opportunities they need to succeed in school and life. Based in Seattle, the foundation is led by CEO Patty Stonesifer and Co-chair William H. Gates Sr., under the direction of Bill and Melinda Gates and Warren Buffett. More information is available at:

About Lumina Foundation for Education

Believing that education is the foundation for individual opportunity, economic vitality and social stability, the Lumina Foundation's goal is to raise the proportion of the U.S. adult population who earn college degrees to 60 percent by the year 2025, an increase of 16 million graduates above current rates. To achieve this ambitious goal of increasing postsecondary degree attainment, Lumina Foundation, in partnership with other stakeholders, is focusing on three main milestones of progress: student preparedness, student success, and college productivity. Based in Indianapolis, the Foundation is led by Jamie P. Merisotis. For more information about Lumina Foundation for Education go to