NWIC will soon offer second bachelor’s degree

This fall, the college will begin offering a four-year degree in Native Studies Leadership

Starting fall quarter of 2012, Northwest Indian College (NWIC) will begin enrolling students in its second bachelor’s degree program, a Bachelor of Arts in Native Studies Leadership. The college was approved in May to offer the degree by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities.

The Native Studies Leadership (NSL) degree is a big step for the college, which currently offers an Associate of Arts and Science degree with a Native American Studies focus. That degree was designed as a direct transfer degree with an emphasis on culture and history. Students now have the opportunity to fulfill their aspirations for a four-year degree rooted in tribal knowledge through the Native Studies Leadership degree.

The NSL is unique even among the tribal colleges and universities because of its focus on restorative knowledge, NWIC President Cheryl Crazy Bull said.

“Students will be able to draw upon the knowledge of their ancestors and of their living relatives to understand how to live well and in culturally necessary ways in today’s society,” she said. 

The NSL degree will help the college fulfill its mission as a tribal college and serve as a framework for existing and future academic degree programs, said Justin Guillory, NWIC dean of academics and distance learning. 

“The significance of offering the NSL degree is foundational to who we are a tribal college, and I believe, is something that the Lummi community and tribal communities we serve should be proud of,” Guillory said.

Guillory commended Sharon Kinley, director of NWIC’s Coast Salish Institute, and her staff, on the design and development of the NSL degree. 

“They literally put their hearts and souls into this degree program,” Guillory said. “They worked very hard to make sure that each course contained the knowledge and skills that our students will need to restore and rebuild our tribal communities and families.”

The program requires completion of 180 credits in courses that include: Reclaiming or History; Rights of Tribes; Native Governments and Politics; Native Science; and Honoring Traditional Leadership.

“Our hope is that this degree will provide an opportunity for our Native students to reclaim their cultural heritage, acquire the knowledge and skills to become leaders in their tribal communities and families, and preserve the rights of tribal nations for the future,” Guillory said. 

NWIC has extended campuses at six other reservations across the Pacific Northwest. The degree was designed to be flexible and translatable in such a way that encourages and allows communities served on the main campus at Lummi and at those sites to insert and teach their own unique tribal histories, languages and cultures that derive from their own place – the place of their traditional homelands.

The degree brings NWIC closer to its goal of creating a four-year university and sanctuary of learning for Native students. The college has offered a Bachelor of Science degree in Native Environmental Science since 2008 – it’s the only accredited institution to offer this degree. There are also plans in the works to begin offering more bachelor’s degrees, including degrees emphasizing human services, tribal and business management and teacher education.