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Doctoral Program Features Scholarship, Culture, and Community

Chrissy Howes  
Cohort members Muskadee Montano, Danny Frank, and Jackie Mosconi.  

The Ed.D. in Teaching and Learning at UMD with a focus in Indigenous culture, language and leadership is one of the few programs of its kind in the world. The professional doctorate prepares students to become scholarly practitioners acknowledging cultural issues known to the world of indigenous peoples. Graduates will be prepared for academic, administrative, or business leadership positions in educational, civil, and private organizations.

The Ed.D. in Teaching and Learning indigenous focused cohort (student group) began their coursework in summer 2011 and includes people from different parts of the world. Six American Indian tribes are represented as well as an indigenous Hmong student. Two members of the class have an American Indian language as their first language. During summer 2012 the group will visit Hawai’i to experience a culture that is a leader in indigenous. They will travel to Hawai’i Pacific University near Honolulu, Oahu, Hawai’i for their coursework.

“They are a powerful group of people, all holding positions of respect in their communities” said Joyce Strand, head of the UMD Department of Education and Dean of Graduate Students for the program.

The class meets in Duluth one weekend a month throughout the year and part of the program is delivered online. The weekend meetings start off with an opening ceremony conducted by class members or important members of the community.  

Chrissy Howes, a student in the doctoral program, said, “I am honored to be a part of this first Indigenous group. We are learning from national leaders. It will equip us with the tools to revitalize our language and culture and make sure it survives.” Howes received two undergraduate degrees from UMD as well as a Master of Education degree. She is the director of UMD’s Enweyang Ojibwe Language Immersion Nest.

“The Ed.D. in Teaching and Learning with an indigenous focus offers scholarship and rigor with an awareness and sensitivity to indigenous pedagogy,” said Strand. Faculty ensure the indigenous component is not an add-on but truly embedded in the program.  Strand indicated, “There are guest lecturers who are leaders in the field of indigenous education participating in the cohort”.

The program is fully supported by Eni-gikendaasoyang – the Center for Indigenous Knowledge and Language Revitalization directed by Dr. Brian McInness. McInness is a graduate of the Ed.D. in Teaching and Learning and his program provides moral and financial support for the Ed.D. in Teaching and Learning Indigenous cohort.

The dual mission is important. “Our goal is to respect the culture and history of our students,” said Frank Guldbrandsen, associate professor of education. “We are aware of the history of Indigenous people in a rigid white educational system and that makes us especially concerned about program inclusiveness.” Guldbrandsen is the dissertation advisor for many of the students. “The dissertations they choose and the research projects they undertake will add to the body of knowledge about the education of students with Indigenous backgrounds.”  

The Department of Education has a strong commitment to Indigenous Peoples. “That vision goes back over 40 years,” said Guldbrandsen. Evidence of that vision is seen in the names of the programs and the education building named Endazi-Gikinoo'Amaading (pronounced En DAH zhee — GEEK in noo — ah MAH ding), the only building in the University of Minnesota System with an American Indian name.

Students from all backgrounds take American Indian centered coursework in many programs: early childhood education, elementary education, special education and the Master of Education program. The education department also supports the Enweyang Ojibwe Language Nest, a language immersion half-day morning program for four and five year-olds.


Written by Cheryl Reitan, February 2012

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