Mentorship Makes a Difference: AIGC Introduces Indigenous Academic Coaching

Mentorship directly influences the academic performance, retention and professional outcomes of students, particularly minority students. The American Indian Graduate Center (AIGC) is paving the way for academic coaching in Native communities and informing academic coaching practices focused on graduate and professional school pursuits. 

As the first program of its kind, Rising Native Graduates seeks to bridge the opportunity gap for Indigenous scholars by offering increased access to graduate and professional degrees for American Indian and Alaska Native students through mentoring with a culturally appropriate and Indigenous centered approach.

“By creating and offering this program with an Indigenous-centered approach, we have the opportunity to contribute to the future direction of Native education,” said Dr. Salena Beaumont Hill (Crow and Blackfeet Tribes of Montana), American Indian Graduate Center’s Rising Native Graduates Program Manager. “We will empower scholars who are faced with institutional barriers and support them as they achieve their academic aspirations.”

Research indicates academic coaching and mentorship boost retention and academic performance among minority students. However, Native scholars are largely excluded from this research due to a lack of representation. Rising Native Graduates, American Indian Graduate Center’s premier academic coaching program, will make strides to better include Native voices in that conversation.

According to a 2009 study, “Mentoring College Students: A Critical Review of the Literature between 1990 and 2007,” minority students who have received mentoring are twice as likely to persist as non-mentored minority students and to have higher GPAs. Researchers from a 2011 study, “The Effects of Student Coaching in College: An Evaluation of a Randomized Experiment in Student Mentoring,” calculated as much as a 10-percent to 15-percent increase in retention rates among undergraduate scholars who had received coaching and mentoring.

“The research is clear: academic coaching and mentoring have a positive impact on students — particularly underrepresented students — pursuing graduate and professional education,” Beaumont Hill said. “But it is equally evident that there is an opportunity gap between Indigenous students and other minority groups. These programs largely do not exist in Indigenous communities, which excludes our scholars from significant data sets.”

This is not the first time American Indian Graduate Center has impacted the landscape of Native education. In the past 50 years, the organization has empowered more than 16,000 Native students pursuing higher education by awarding more than $350 million in scholarships. In 1969 there were only 38 Native lawyers, 15 Native doctoral students and 30 Native medical doctors. As of 2019, American Indian Graduate Center has contributed to over 2,000 law degrees, 1,700 postgraduate degrees and 450 medical degrees for Native students.

Both Rising Native Graduates Academic Coach and Scholar applications are due October 16. Interested students and scholars can learn more about Rising Native Graduates at AIGCS.org.

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