Pathways Council Focuses on Solutions for a Stronger Campus

By Lyric Snodgrass  

For struggling students, the Institute of American Indian Arts  Pathways Council  might be the best place to voice concerns.  The IAIA Pathways Council provides an open forum for students, faculty and administration to come together  to  discuss  issues  on campus and  to work  through those issues.    

“We focus on bringing up problems and talking about solutions, not just complaining,”  says Jessie Ryker-Crawford, Ph.D., who is White Earth Chippewa, and spearheads the council with Jennifer Love, M.FA. Both are faculty members in the  departments of museum studies and creative writing respectively.  

The  issues brought up at the meetings are divided into  three sections:  project,  partnership and  by  (date). As people propose changes they want to see, it  is written on  a  flip chart  with a mention of who might be able to help with  a solution,  and the date by which they expect to see results. These results can  range from  a fully implemented solution to an issue  or a possible budget to bring to the next meeting.  

The  monthly  meetings  are  held on the fourth Tuesday of the month,  and  anyone can propose an issue such as  encouraging more students to attend graduate school or  to add  more benches around campus, both of which were brought up at the October  2018  meeting.    

Summit meetings take place in the Center for Lifelong Education building every fourth Tuesday of the month to discuss what can be done to improve the IAIA Campus. Photo credit: Lyric Snodgrass

“We have to be mindful, we want a place to be safe and say what you feel,” Love  says.    Everyone at the meetings is allowed to speak and bring up improvements they would like to see on campus.    

Hidden Issues Emerge  

One recent project  tackled was student hunger. The issue of student hunger, to Ryker-Crawford and Love, didn’t seem like such a big problem until it was brought up in  one of the  meetings. “For a student to succeed, they cannot be hungry,” Ryker-Crawford  says.  “We all come together as a community to ask:  ‘What can we do to see results today?'”   The outcome of the issue of student hunger  lead to  the development of the food pantry for students on campus.  Starting mid-November, the  food  pantry will be moved to the new Student Union building, but the  Student Success Center  will continue to accept donations too.  The  pantry is in need  of food, toiletries, and warmer clothes for the winter season.  Also, some students will be new parents soon, and baby clothes, diapers, baby toiletries and furniture are needed.    

Pantry flyers found on campus, encourage donations. Photo credit: Lyric Snodgrass

Another issue the  council has taken on is the  matter  of attendance. Currently, IAIA  allows for students to be dropped from  a  course after a second unexcused absence at the instructor’s discretion. Love  says  that  through  the  council, there is an official form “for students, advisors and professors to stay on the same page as far as absences, but ultimately it’s on the student.” Using this form, advisors are kept up on the student’s performance in a course. Sometimes despite the absences on the student’s record,  they are allowed  to continue with the course  and  still  earn  credit for it.    

In addition, the  council takes on more long-term projects  such as  connecting students to financial aid. At IAIA, one of the  main  reasons for students not returning is not having the funds to continue their education  according to the  Priority 1-Financial Resources  on the Pathways: Completing the Circle webpage.    

Love explains that there are plans in place to improve the communication between  the  English composition professors and financial aid to  further the  process of getting students to apply for scholarships.  Some English composition classes have added  an assignment for students to write a practice essay,  which could  then  be used to  apply for IAIA scholarships. Love says some students find it disheartening to put the work into crafting a good essay and then not getting the scholarship. She adds, many students don’t know that they can request feedback on their essays from financial aid.    

Not only tending to the issues which arise academically, the council also addresses what is happening personally with the students on campus.    

“We care,” Ryker-Crawford says,  “Sometimes you feel like you’re on an island and no one knows you’re struggling with food or with childcare.”    

Both Ryker-Crawford and Love know that the challenges and  obstacles  which can prevent a student from graduating are many, but they are committed to supporting IAIA students on their path to graduation.    

“We want students to succeed and we want to remove as many barriers as we can to help them succeed and becomes masters in their field,” Love adds.    

For students, faculty and  staff who wish to attend and learn more,  the next meeting will be on November 27 from 3:30 to 4:30 pm,  and the final meeting of the semester will  be on December 11 from 3:30 to 4:30pm.

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