New scholarship to bring Native American students to WSU college

Washington State University’s College of Agricultural, Human, and Natural Resource Sciences will offer academic scholarships to incoming Native American students thanks to a new gift.

Two women stand next to a tree talking.
WSU Native American students exploring Heyburn State Park as part of a retreat hosted by the Native American Student Center.

“Increasing scholarships is one of our big goals,” said Zoe Higheagle Strong, Executive Director for Tribal Relations and Special Assistant to the Provost. “The financial gap between wanting to attend college and being able to afford it is a major barrier for many Native American students. We’re not anywhere close to providing enough scholarships at WSU, but we are committed to this work.”

The scholarships are funded by a $50,000 gift from Northwest Farm Credit Services and will be awarded for the start of the 2022-23 academic year.

“Northwest Farm Credit Services is pleased to partner with WSU on this initiative, which will make higher education more accessible to Native American students pursuing CAHNRS related degrees,” said Josh Siler, Washington President, Northwest Farm Credit Services.

WSU acknowledges that its locations statewide are on the homelands of Native peoples, who have lived in this region from time immemorial.

One goal of the scholarship is to honor WSU’s land grant legacy, said Elizabeth Perez, Director of Recruiting and Retention for CAHNRS. Additionally, every Native tribe is different, but a commonality is that they consider themselves stewards of the land, she said.

“We need to be respectful of the history of land grant institutions and how they were established,” Perez said. “The lifeblood of our college’s land grant mission is a connection to the land and wildlife. We want our support to be more than words, but to support Native students and tribes in a tangible way.”

Students who are enrolled or are descendants of a Tribe will qualify. The goal is to support students with a variety of backgrounds.

“We all agree it’s important to have a holistic approach to looking at students,” said Sharon Kanichy, WSU Assistant Director of Tribal Relations & Recruitment. “We want to help people who need the support.”

Students entering any CAHNRS major will be eligible, though current students are not. One reason for the recruitment angle is the low number of Native undergraduate students in CAHNRS. Applications can be submitted online.

Several students looking at something off-camera, holding their phones taking photos.
Students taking photos at Heyburn State Park as part of the Native American Student Center retreat.

“When Elizabeth approached us about starting a scholarship, we noticed there weren’t many Native Americans in CAHNRS programs,” Kanichy said. “Seeing the close ties to the land grant mission of the college, that was a big void. We need to fill that and this scholarship will help.”

The gift established a scholarship fund, which other people or organizations can also give to, Perez said.

Kanichy, Strong, and Perez also hope students will take advantage of services available on campus, so they have support once they arrive on campus.

“We hear all the time that people haven’t heard of our Native American Student Center,” Strong said. “Going to college can be lonely for any minority student, but our center can give them a home away from home. We want students to feel more connected.”

That extra support helps retain students and increase their likelihood of earning their degrees, she said.

Those interested in applying for the scholarship should contact Perez or Kanichy.