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An 'azhoogan' to BSU: AIRC hosts annual Tribal College Preview Day

Breeze Red-Sky chats with other tribal college students during the fourth annual Tribal College Preview Day on Tuesday at BSU’s American Indian Resource Center. (Jillian Gandsey | Bemidji Pioneer) 1 / 2
Arianna Goggleye talks about her education at the fourth annual Tribal College Preview Day on Tuesday at BSU’s American Indian Resource Center. (Jillian Gandsey | Bemidji Pioneer)2 / 2

BEMIDJI—Cass Lake-Bena grad Arianna Goggleye studies elementary education and American Indian language and culture at Fond du Lac Tribal and Community College.

She hopes to work toward a bachelor's degree at Bemidji State University after she wraps up her two-year degree at Fond du Lac—and university staff hope more and more tribal college students follow her lead.

BSU's American Indian Resource Center hosted its fourth-annual Tribal College Preview Day Tuesday. Students from Red Lake Nation College, Leech Lake Tribal College, White Earth Tribal and Community College, and Fond du Lac spent a night in the university dorms, ate a couple meals in Walnut Hall, toured the campus and spoke to university advisers. They also learned about services offered at the resource center, plus scholarships and financial aid plans that could help them make the jump to the university, which staff hope becomes a destination college for American Indian students.

It's designed to give tribal college students a taste of the university, and help grease the wheels for a possible move there to earn a bachelor's degree like Goggleye plans to do. BSU entered into dual-enrollment agreements with all four tribal colleges in the state in May 2017, which means students there are automatically enrolled at BSU. Those agreements are part of a broader azhoogan—"bridge"—initiative at the university that aims to connect it with Minnesota's tribal colleges.

"That's a tremendous resource that they're providing for their communities," Bill Blackwell, Jr., the resource center's executive director, said of the colleges. "And we really want to say, 'how can we make it as easy for a student to transfer? How can we make the transition as easy as possible? And how do we show students what's possible?"

Goggleye, who's enrolled in the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe, said she already planned to head to BSU after she wraps up her studies at Fond du Lac, which she said attracted her with its strong language and cultural programming. Ultimately, Goggleye said she'd like to teach Ojibwemowin to elementary students, possibly in Leech Lake.

"I'm revitalizing my own culture, and that's something that I really value," she said. "And then I get to be around people that I know."

Joe Bowen

Joe Bowen covers education (mostly K-12) and American Indian affairs for the Bemidji Pioneer.

He's from Minneapolis, earned a degree from the College of St. Benedict - St. John's University in 2009, and worked at the Perham Focus near Detroit Lakes and Sun Newspapers in suburban Minneapolis before heading to the Pioneer.

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