University of Minnesota
January 21, 2010
The new American Indian Learning Resource Center would have approximately 19,000 square feet and would stand in a prominent location on the southwest corner of the UMD campus.
U seeks new building for American Indian Learning Resource Center on Duluth campus
By Rick Moore
Soon after a conversation begins about the proposed new building on the Duluth campus, Greg Fox throws out a question: “Guess how many American Indian faculty and staff we have at the University of Minnesota Duluth (UMD)?”
The guess is woefully low, and Fox, UMD’s vice chancellor for finance and operations, says the correct answer is 31.
It was Fox’s way of suggesting that much of what goes on in the realm of American Indian education at UMD is below the public’s radar. For instance:
• UMD has the highest ratio of American Indian faculty and staff to students of any public university in the country;
• It has the only endowed chair in American Indian education;
• The University of Minnesota, in a joint program with the Duluth and Twin Cities campuses, graduates the second highest number of American Indian physicians in the country; and
• UMD has nearly 20 American Indian programs scattered throughout its campus.
“Scattered” is the operative word.
To unite those programs and provide better support for UMD’s students, both Indian and non-Indian, the University is proposing a new building to house UMD’s American Indian Learning Resource Center (AILRC). It’s part of the U’s 2010 Capital Request to the Minnesota Legislature.
Bringing students and programs together
The new AILRC, standing at the southwest corner of campus, would serve as a gateway to UMD and to Minnesota’s American Indian culture.
“The building is not specifically for Indian students; it’s a gathering place for everyone to learn about our similarities and differences,” says Rick Smith, director of the AILRC. “It’s hard to have a respect for other cultures until you have an understanding of them.”
Smith points out that the majority of students taking American Indian classes are non-Indians themselves.
The building would consolidate a number of important American Indian programs, including: Bridges to the Future (baccalaureate and doctoral degree programs helping to increase the number of American Indian students in biomedical and behavioral sciences research); the Center for American Indian and Minority Health (support for students pursuing careers in health science); the Center for Regional and Tribal Child Welfare Studies (a place for strengthening social work skills); and the Eni-gikendaasoyang Center for Indigenous Knowledge and Language Revitalization (programs for people seeking educational careers based in indigenous knowledge and language).
In addition, the AILRC would house the second largest American Indian–specific library in the Upper Midwest (the Mishoomis Collection), as well as artworks from the campus’s Tweed Museum of Art.
The building would have approximately 19,000 square feet and include classrooms, a Great Room for campus events, and offices for student services. It would be the fifth LEED-certified building on campus.
According to UMD chancellor Kathryn Martin, the new building is important to the University, especially given its proximity to nearby reservations, collaborations, and outreach activities in the area. It would also be a great gathering place for UMD’s American Indian students.
“It helps them, and it also gives us a chance to host other events that honor American Indian traditions and give the greater community a chance to attend and participate,” says Martin. “We believe that having an American Indian Learning Resource Center that focuses on understanding and appreciating American Indian culture and the American Indian community is important, and a building like this will help us to do that.”