SEPTEMBER 20, 2006

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SOSU, Choctaw Nation team up to receive $800,000 NSF grant

The Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma and Southeastern Oklahoma State University have once again teamed up to meet the needs of students.

The National Science Foundation recently announced that it is funding the two entities’ Project Impact! (Increasing Minority Participation in Academic Computer Training) grant in the amount of $800,000.

The purpose of the grant is to establish an alliance between Southeastern and the Choctaw Nation to implement a comprehensive, innovative program to improve recruitment and retention of minority Native American students in the computing disciplines. Project Impact! will develop and implement interventions that support students (minorities, females, and individuals with disabilities); create sustainable changes in culture and practices at the institutional departmental, and organizational levels; and serve as a model and repository for effective practices to broaden participation.

“Southeastern is proud to partner with the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma to provide additional educational opportunities for our students,’’ said Southeastern President Dr. Glen D. Johnson. “The University is very appreciative of the outstanding support it receives from the Choctaw Nation. This grant from the National Science Foundation will be of great benefit to our students as they reach their academic and career goals.”

“Computers and technology skills are very important in modern business,’’ said Choctaw Chief Gregory Pyle. “A person has to be able to master and use them effectively on a daily basis. Unfortunately, as I’ve personally experienced in visits throughout our area, many children in southeastern Oklahoma do not have access to technology or training opportunities – this puts them at a serious disadvantage from their peers. The Choctaw Nation teamed up with SOSU to develop Project Impact! so that children can participate in high quality instruction that prepares them for a successful future. We hope that they will take advantage of the opportunity to study and pursue degrees in the computing sciences and then utilize that knowledge to teach others or operate businesses in our communities. This is part of an effort to raise the quality of life for everyone in southeastern Oklahoma.”

Project Impact! is projected to initially serve some 50 Native American/Choctaw students from five high schools – Durant, Colbert, McAlester, Hugo and Talihina. The program will provide students with access to computers and also offer extensive training in Microsoft Office and other computer skills.

“I think this is an exciting and innovative project that can open doors not just for these students, but for many other students in the future,’’ said Durant Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Terry James. “We are very pleased to be participating in the project.”

Southeastern computer science instructor Betty Clay will serve as project director, overseeing and coordinating all activities, including implementation, student selection, staff training, evaluation, and reporting requirements. Project assistant Lesa Sanders will work with recordkeeping and project coordination activities.

Pam Fahrendorf, a former SOSU faculty member and a member of the Choctaw Nation, will serve as the Project Impact! mentor to provide support and motivation for the participating Native American students.

Serving as adjunct instructors will be Ellen Hendrix and Mark Ross.

“I thank our partner SOSU, the participating school districts, the staff of the Choctaw Nation Education Department and our Grants, Research, and Development Department, as well as others involved for their important efforts on this grant project,’’ Chief Pyle said. “The Choctaw Nation is also grateful to the National Science Foundation and the Oklahoma Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research for their financial support. We know the students and all involved will greatly benefit from this endeavor.”

Contact: Alan Burton, SOSU director of public relations, 580.745.2731
Choctaw Nation contact: Judy Allen, executive director of public relations, 580.924.8280, ext. 2249