SDSU recruits American Indian students


University Marketing and Communications

American Indian students work on academics in the American Indian Student center on SDSU’s campus.

Elizabeth Stromquist, Reporter

South Dakota State University is developing an atmosphere that allows its American Indian student population to flourish. Due to the hiring of the recruitment coordinator, the Wokini scholarships, the new center being built and the campus-wide initiative being put into place, South Dakota State has been named one of the top 200 American Indian friendly colleges.

Amber Morseau is the recruitment coordinator for the American Indian student population at SDSU. Morseau stresses the importance of having a system of support for American Indian students.

“Through the Wokini Initiative, the university was able to hire me. This is one of the biggest steps they took to have somebody who was intentionally and meaningfully making those connections with the students to recruit them to come to the university,” she said.

Hannah Surat is a freshman majoring in agricultural business. She is also involved with the Wokini Initiative. Surat believes the initiative has had a positive impact on her college career.

“It definitely affected me because a requirement for it is that you have to come early for a freshman experience program and with that we were taught what to do before college started. We also have to be involved in a student organization. With all they have offered me, I have become more aware of what it’s like to be an American Indian,” Surat said.

This is the first year of the Wokini Initiative. Through the program 15 students have received scholarships through the program.

“It’s a good way to keep students from the reservation to stay in the college. The students have family members back home who need their support and staying in college allows that,” Surat said.

The scholarship is $5,000 per year and requires recipients be a tutor or mentor, be involved in the American Indian clubs and join another student organization.

With the student population growing every year, campus is growing more diverse. With more diversity, the requirement of support systems for all cultures and ethnicities is vital.

“American Indian students are very unique. The experiences that they have are unique. That transition from high school into college look a little bit different from a historical standpoint,” Morseau said. “To be able to have an American Indian recruiter that focuses solely on the needs of students really opens the door for them. They have someone who is willing to go into the community and connect one-on-one with those students. You wouldn’t find that with a general recruiter.”

The American Indian Student Center is located in the lower level of the Student Enrollment Services building. It creates an atmosphere that not only offers academic support for the American Indian students on campus, but also provides an area where American Indian students can practice their culture.

In both Lakota and Dakota cultures, the preservation of language and art is critical. The Wokini Initiative allows the university to assist the American Indian student population in accomplishing this.

The Wokini Initiative offers programs and support to members of the nine tribal nations. It also encourages American Indian students to pursue majors they are interested in while creating an atmosphere dedicated to recognizing the importance of their culture and family.

“At the American Indian Center we offer a variety of different programs. We have different programs to involve the whole campus like Indian Taco sales, stuffed fry-bread sales and Wahanpi Wednesdays,” Morseau said.

These improvements have had a positive impact on not only the experiences of American Indian students, but also on the campus as a whole. It has created an accepting environment where students of all backgrounds can have a conversation with each other.

Morseau wants to continue to see this growth of change at SDSU. She would like to see more scholarships for Native students, an increase in Native student enrollment and more programs designed to assist with the expected increase in the American Indian student population brought in by the Wokini Initiative.