East, West River team up for Oglala Lakota College

Ruth Brown

Ruth BrownOpinion Editor

A career in engineering will soon be an option for the students who attend Oglala Lakota College with the help of two state universities.

SDSU and South Dakota School of Mines and Technology, in conjunction with OLC, are working on developing a pre-engineering program for the college. It would allow students to take the first two years of engineering courses through OLC before they would move on to finish their last two years at a Regental institution.

“We have been working with the (OLC) math and science program for the last several years discussing this,” said Bruce Berdanier, professor of civil engineering at SDSU.

“They wanted to identify what courses they need to teach for the first two years of an engineering degree. Civil engineering is the focus right now but students could also come into mechanical or another.”

The grant money awarded to SDSU, SDSM&T and OLC came from the National Science Foundation to extend curriculum on the Pine Ridge Reservation. Both SDSM&T and SDSU received $825,00 in grant money and OLC was awarded $1.25 million in NSF funding.

“This is an opportunity for our students to pursue the goal of becoming an engineer and work closely with two Regental institutions,” said Gerald Giraud, vice president for instruction at OLC. “Oglala Lakota College also has an opportunity to develop its own curriculum and faculty.”

“We’ve been working with their department heads there on seven to 10 courses that students are not getting to take right now,” said Berdanier. “If they can take those courses (at OLC) we hope that they will be more confident and more successful at some other college that they do their final two years at.”

Berdanier said that by allowing students to take their first two years through OLC they will have a better transition into their third and fourth years as students and set them at the full “junior” level that they need to be at when they enroll in another university.

“This is designed to be more than a two plus two program; we provide two years of basic courses and students would finish at another institution,” said Giraud. “SDSU and the School of Mines and Technology will develop a reciprocal and ongoing relationship with Oglala Lakota College by teaching courses as well as summertime projects.”

The program will include a service-learning project that will develop throughout the summer, according to Berdanier. The OLC students will work with students from other schools on a project.

“When you incorporate service learning into academia it really makes things real for students,” said Jason Tinant, co-chair of the Math and Science Department at OLC. “The Pine Ridge Reservation has so many critical engineering needs and the students want to give back to the community.”

The service-learning project on the Pine Ridge Reservation will be done with a combination of OLC students and some SDSU students.

“That will also be helpful when these students move on to a new school because they will know someone at the school and won’t be completely going into it alone,” said Berdanier. “It’s taken nearly 10 years to formulate this plan and working on research projects.”

A portion of the grant money that SDSU was awarded will be used for funding a master’s student, a doctoral student and two undergraduates who will be working on the program. Another portion of the money will be used to pay approximately 15 percent of Berdanier’s salary over the next five years that the project will continue to be developed. He will advise the OLC faculty and staff as well as teach some distance learning courses and work with students.

“The focus in the Math and Science Department (at OLC) has always been on science and this is the first opportunity for us to focus on engineering,” Tinant said, who is also an engineer. “That’s what we want to provide for people.”

OLC currently has approximately 1,800 students enrolled and has 12 different instructional sites throughout the state.

If we could attract eight to 10 students from Oglala Lakota College to SDSU then we would be pretty comfortable with that,” Berdanier said.