San Marcos,
10:50 AM

Partnering with Tribes to Boost Native American Student Success

By Margaret Chantung

Built on the land of the Luiseño Indians, CSUSM is proud of its impressive history of engagement and partnership with the local American Indian population. At her fourth annual Report to Tribal Nations on April 9 on the Rincon Indian Reservation at Harrah’s Resort Southern California, Cal State San Marcos President Karen Haynes provided an update to regional tribal leaders, emphasizing the progress the University has made in recruiting, retaining and graduating American Indian students.

Although American Indian students have some of the lowest college matriculation rates and highest high school dropout rates in the country, CSUSM has made reversing these numbers a priority and, through purposive efforts, is making significant progress.

“Back in 2004 when I first arrived, I acted quickly to honor our campus’s Native American heritage by dramatically strengthening ties to our region’s tribal communities,” remarked Haynes. “Representatives from your communities responded in kind. Together we can be thankful for some remarkable successes.”

Those successes include:

  • The CSUSM Native Advisory Council — founded in 2005, it is only the second of its kind in the California State University (CSU) system, with representatives from most neighboring tribes.
  • The CSUSM Office of the Tribal Liaison—in 2004, Haynes hired a full-time tribal liaison responsible for nurturing relationships and partnerships with local tribal governments. It remains the only position of its kind in the CSU system.
  • The California Indian Culture and Sovereignty Center (CICSC)—Opened in 2011, the CICSC is directed by a California Indian and serves as a focal point for important research, events and programming, linking CSUSM to tribal communities and traditions and creating a welcoming environment for Native American students. It is the only center of its kind in California and is a true statewide resource.
  • Guaranteed admission agreements—CSUSM has guaranteed admission agreements with ten public school districts including Valley Center/Pauma and Temecula Valley Unified, which have large numbers of American Indian students. The University also as an agreement with the Iipay Nation of Santa Ysabel which offers targeted outreach and academically-focused support to prepare students for college.

“Together we worked to intentionally increase the recruitment, retention and graduation of American Indian students,” said Haynes. “As a result we have the fastest growing population of American Indian students in the entire CSU system. In fact we are currently the only CSU experiencing growth in our Native American student population.”

The University’s service region—which extends across San Diego, Riverside and San Berardino Counties—includes 25 federally recognized tribal communities and is home to a large urban American Indian population. Currently, approximately 400 students identify as American Indian.

Despite Success There is More to be Done

“There is a lot of work to be done because we know we are up against some very tough trends,” reflected Haynes. “But let us be encouraged by our record of success in working together to make Cal State San Marcos the most vibrant center of Native American learning in the CSU system.”

Haynes also thanked a number of the tribal communities for their generous support, including the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians, which donated $500,000 in matching funds to the CICSC, and the Barona and Pala Bands of Mission Indians, who were essential to the University’s goal to meet the match.

Moving forward, the University is committed to continuing to attract and support a growing number of American Indian students, and to expand upon the impressive research work of the CICSC.

“Cal State San Marcos is all about making our students’ dreams come true,” she said. “I am confident that we will continue to make progress on realizing your dreams – our dreams – for American Indian education.”

Haynes’ full 2015 Report to Tribal Nations can be read online.