The Wind River Tribal College and Central Wyoming College signed a formal letter of agreement for an articulation agreement on Sept. 13 at the Wind River Tribal College. The agreement was signed by CWC president Dr. Brad Tyndall and WRTC president Marlin Spoonhunter with the support of members of the tribal education board and CWC employees.
This agreement will allow WRTC courses to be articulated for credit to CWC, where WRTC students can transfer to complete an associate’s degree.
“Education will help our people; children, grandchildren for our future, even our adults,” President Spoonhunter said.
Realizing that it was a cultural shock for many native students to attend colleges away from the reservation, tribal colleges started to form around 1972 in the United States to meet the needs of their community.
Spoonhunter said that native students who go to a community college are more likely to continue their education to earn a bachelor’s degree.
“Education is a good thing for our native people,” he said. Spoonhunter, who was a first generation student, was taught at a young age the importance of education by his uncle. As Spoonhunter got older the academic goal got higher. From being told to earn a high school diploma to a bachelor’s degree to a master’s degree; his uncle continued to raise the bar on Spoonhunter’s education.
“I was reminded that I needed that education so we need to remind our students,” Spoonhunter said. After Spoonhunter completed his degree he knew he needed to come back to help his people. Since WRTC started in 1997, the college has been able to help many native students pursue a bachelor’s degree and hopes to grow the number of native students earning degrees with the CWC transfer agreement.
“The tribal college has done an amazing job; it’s a challenge to get a college going with enrollment numbers and support, so it’s important for us all to work together,” President Tyndall said. “CWC is here to help serve our communities. We have different communities that have different needs and we have to recognize the needs that our communities want.”
Under the articulation agreement, WRTC courses that meet the standards of the Higher Learning Commission will be included as part of student’s academic record at CWC once they transfer to CWC.
“We are embarking on a new journey,” said Sandi Iron Cloud, Wind River Tribal College board member. “It will be an uphill climb but we are here for our people. We are proud to work with institutions from Wyoming.”
Both colleges will continue discussions on how to make the partnership stronger and will look at a contractual agreement where WRTC would directly offer CWC credit, and CWC could be able to provide federal financial aid for the WRTC credits.
“It’s a good thing to connect education,” said Tarissa Spoonhunter, assistant professor of American Indian studies at CWC. “Seeing my students come back to the community is what it’s all about. We empower each other.” Spoonhunter attested the importance of the tribal college where people can learn from each other young and old.
“We are grateful and proud that we can support the effort that the tribal college started,” said Cory Daly, vice president of student affairs at CWC. The support of family and culture is important for students to succeed, Daly said.
WRTC will be able to transfer approved courses to CWC this year.