Friday, May 27, 2011

Off To India

There is a new delegation of folks from UB heading to India for the first Annual International Conference on Society, Technology & Sustainable Development. The conference’s focal theme is: Indigenous Practices, Technology & Policies. UB’s School of Social Work and India’s Amrita University Social Work department began a research partnership UBARI last year. Part of the two school’s relationship was developing a health related conference. So, having traveled to India last year, we are off again to reunite with our friends in India and participate in this conference.

Part of the exciting thing for me about working in India, are the issues related to indigenous knowledge. For instance, last year while there we discussed how the indigenous folks were the first to “know” about the 2005 Tsunami that hit Kerala India. We were able to tour the area devastated by the Tsunami and met with a family that lived and rebuilt their home in the same location, just about 100 yards or so from the Indian Ocean. The Social Work department is located in Kerala. It seems India’s indigenous Peoples and a few animals were the only ones with prior Knowledge.

This was our group in 2010 visiting a site that honored those who were impacted by the Tsunami
If you are interested in studying and/or working with us (e.g., our India partners and the Native American Center for Wellness Research) please contact me.  There are many opportunities to learning more about indigenous knowledge in India. Our friends in India are wonderful folks and very willing to work with us.  Although the 20 hours on an airplane is not much fun, the opportunities in India are many. I will certainly provide an update on all the activities of our work and maybe a few photos as well!

Peace, DAP

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

There’s No Need for Sex Education in the After-Life. However, It’s a Must While on Earth

Now that Osama Bin Laden has been killed and buried at sea, I wonder if 72 virgins await him? I’m sure you have heard he and his followers believe that being a martyr will result in spending eternity with 72 virgins. Although I am not sure, I can only assume that once they reach the after-life, where ever that is for these folks, it is not to ensure these 72 remain virgins.

On a side note: Now that we know more about Osama Bin Laden, like, he enjoys watching porn, he is fascinated with watching himself on TV, he seldom leaves his home, drinks lots of soda, eats too much sugar, disrespects women and works hard to look younger, it seems he was an average American! Because the American Government and its military are founded on Christian Principles they had no choice and were morally obligated to shoot this evil man in the head. I think it was Jesus who said, "This is my rifle this is my gun..."
Anyway…the folks in the after-life are always portrayed as pure – with no mention of intercourse. However, our current life situation is mostly about sex with multiple partners who also have multiple sex partners. Regardless of what we express to the rest of the world about our sexual issues, lets face it – we all have sexual secrets and fantasies. Do I need to list all of the names of people who represented themselves as being morally virtuous, but turned out to be less than what they portrayed?  The latest drama indicates that folks were shocked about Arnold Schwarzenegger and Maria Shriver separating after 25 years of marriage. Did you hear the latest news on what might have caused that split?  Among other things I’m sure, but mainly – Arnold had Unprotected Sex!

Sex Education

There is nothing wrong, bad, or evil with folks having unprotected sex. Remember, you are the result of unprotected sex. Anyone who has had children is faced with the moment of explaining the reproduction cycle. It is important that children are provided appropriate information and tools based on facts. It is the job of parents and adult family members to provide children with sex education and role models for safe sexual encounters.

I obtained a lot of my sex education from my dad. I recall him stating many times he should have “relieved” himself while on the toilet rather than with my ma. He stated I would have ended up in the Ohio River, down on “ole slippery rock.”  In situations when he wanted to boost my esteem and reminded me of that sex educational story he would insert a strong message into our conversation. For instance he would say, “Hey slippery rock, you want to get out of the way of the f*#king TV?”

The education I received from my family (Dad) was very poor. The message I took from his educational presentation was that women were basically sperm banks. Not only was this very disrespectful toward my own ma, but to all women. There was also no cautionary note about unprotected sexual acts. But, why would there be with his sort of attitude about sex?

Some Stats

HIV/AIDS continues to be a mounting problem for Native Americans and Alaska Natives. Although we are a small group, when looking at population size, Native Americans and Alaska Natives rank 3rd in rates of HIV/AIDS diagnosis (CDC 2008).

In New York State (Without New York City data) Native Americans had a 4.5 rate of HIV Diagnosis per 100,000 population. Again, we ranked 3rd with African Americans at 39.2; Hispanic at 21.1 and Whites at a 4.1 rate (Cite).
Number of HIV Diagnosis
% of Total HIV Diagnosis
Rate per 100,000 Population
Native Am

Native Americans are few in number, but have a higher rate per 100,000 than Whites and Asians in New York State.

It’s not all just about HIV/AIDS. There are just over 100 communicable diseases listed in the U.S. A communicable disease is a disease that can be transmitted from one sufferer to another. In New York State in 2007 these are the reported diseases:

Some Sexually Transmitted Diseases Reported:
HIV/AIDS =    10,112
Chlamydia =     80,730
Gonorrhea =     17,699
Syphilis =         4,900

Total sexually transmitted diseases = 103,419

Total of all other communicable diseases = 27,815

Sexually transmitted diseases make up a very small number of communicable diseases. Yet, these few diseases out number all others put together!

A Safer Sex Message for Native Americans

If you do not talk with your family about safe sex practices, then what is the message you are sending them? No message is a very strong message! The best way to protect the ones we love is to provide them with an educated conversation. Please ask every family member and friend to get tested for HIV. Treat this as any other health screening message. Knowledge is power. When you are sure about your own health, you are less likely to jeopardize it and more likely to respect it.

We teach our youth about avoiding all kinds of viruses. HIV should be added to this list. There are many, good professionals who can help. Most of these services are free and all are confidential (if not find another).  It seems we are losing our youth to many things, drugs, alcohol, suicide, diabetes, gangs, and on and on! Safe sex is one issue we can alter with a simple, consistent message.  Be the one who will determine this message. Your people are waiting and will listen for your message. Silence is a very strong and wrong message to send.

Peace, DAP

Monday, May 2, 2011

A Learning Community Model for Native American College Students

Anyone who has read some of my past posts, like HERE and HERE, should understand that Native American students have very high dropout rates throughout all levels of educational systems. If I could boil all the possible reasons why this is the case, I would have to state that America’s educational design/environment does not match the way Native American’s learn.  Past posts have speculated, like HERE and HERE, about certain classroom and policy conditions resulting in high dropouts, but the bottom line is that more Native Americans dropout of college than stay.

It’s easy reviewing the literature and writing about all of the problems of high Native American dropout rates. Goodness knows I have the posts to prove it! What’s more challenging is figuring out what to do about it. Just because someone identifies a problem does not mean that person can produce a solution! Now that the previous statement frees me from the responsibility of solving this enduring problem, I do have problem-solving ideas.

I was recently asked to consult with a group of UB students who plan to travel to West Virginia during a summer project. The students will work in a community that could use some help such as light construction, working with children, etc. The students could also be working with a diverse population, more specifically Native Americans. This project originates out of UB’s Undergraduate Academies. There are many different, worthy projects happening in the Undergraduate Academies, one of which is a Learning Community. They provide UB undergraduates with community peer assistance, first year student housing, and shared interest housing. All of these activities indicates UB’s attempt at creating a Learning Community model.

History and Evaluation of University Learning Community Models

The idea of connecting and integrating student learning with student living began to take shape under Alexander Meiklejohn. After moving from England to New Jersey at the age of eight, he received his doctorate from Cornell later becoming a philosopher, university administrator, and an advocate for free-speech. He also became a dean of Brown University and Amherst College President. Dr. Meiklejohn developed an Experimental College with the main goal of creating a community that aids teacher-student interaction around a living and learning environment (Lit review on living-learning).

The purpose behind Meiklejohn’s original idea has evolved over the years. In our current college systems, the Learning Community has several different varieties but the theory behind Learning Community models have remained the same. It is believed that students will remain in college and excel if they are given the opportunity to integrate their social and academic lives. When students join together around commonly shared academic and/or social interests, their college experience is much more likely to be positive. Connecting social and academic life using the Learning Community model can consist of many different categories. UB’s model seems to focus on housing specific students together and special assistance.  There could be a number of different Learning Community models. Some of them might consist of:

  • Grouping students who are taking the same course;
  • Grouping students who have common characteristics or interests;
  • Grouping students in a dedicated dorm together with similar activities;
  • Grouping students together with intensive faculty collaborations; or
  • Grouping students together with all of the above offered.
The main goal of a Learning Community is to provide groups of students with specialized academic and social services.  It is important to balance these services between meeting academic standards and ensuring a rich social life while in college.

There are studies explaining and investigating different models HERE. After researching all these different models over many years, it has been determined that regardless of the model’s design, intensity or any other characteristic, Learning Communities have significant influences on a student’s college experiences, grade point average (GPA), and retention. Please let me state these findings another way. Students who became involved with Learning Community programs, even those that are measured as having the least amount of structure and intensity, students increased their GPA scores, had higher retentions rates, and had positive experiences while doing so! 

Developing a Native American Learning Community at UB

I plan to submit a Native American learning Community (NACL) proposal in order that UB students share residence hall space in Red Jacket Residence Hall and are provided social and academic programming.

The NACL is proposing the Red Jacket Residence Hall as this has cultural significance with the Native American community. Red Jacket gets its name from the Seneca Nation Chief who led a peace delegation with George Washington in 1792. Red Jacket’s work and reputation continues to have importance throughout Native American communities. Also, having student programming space in Red Jacket will have a decidedly impact on program success.

Native American Community Learning Program

Faculty led Academics Programming:
Undergraduate NALC Introductory Seminar – Fall
Undergraduate NALC Retention Seminar – Spring
Discovery Seminars – topic-based, 1 credit course per semester
Academic Advising & Support – Ongoing

Faculty & Student led Academics and Social Programming:
Individual and small group meetings – monthly
Cultural events – monthly
Peer Mentor meetings – monthly & as needed
Native American Peoples’ Alliance, Student Association Group & Intercultural and Diversity Center – meets monthly

Faculty led Academics Programming

Each Fall, I will lead a seminar for new students entering NACL. There will also be a Spring seminar that specifically focuses on student retention activities. Research indicates that certain, brief activities significantly improves college retention for minority students. A 1-credit Discovery Seminar will be offered for NALC students each semester. The Discovery Seminar will be part of Undergraduate Academies program. Also, specific faculty will provide NACL students with advising and other social supports. All of these activities will be provided on a monthly and on-going basis by me and other supportive UB faculty.

Faculty & Student led Academics and Social Programming

The NACL enrolled students will meet individually and as small groups in order to support each other both academically and socially. These meetings, although scheduled monthly, will also meet as needed. This space will additionally be used to hold regular cultural events. NACL students and I will provide activities related to preparing specific foods, drumming and singing events, community social events, and cultural teachings. Part of the mission will be to learn and be active in ones own cultural activities as well as learn about other tribal events.  Once the NACL program becomes established, experienced NACL students will engage and mentor other students. These mentoring meeting will be scheduled monthly as well as on a needed basis. The Native American peoples’ Alliance (NAPA) is a UB student association group that meets monthly and promotes Native American school and community events. UB’s Intercultural and Diversity Center is involved with many cultural events on campus. Specifically, they organize the yearly Native Bazaar on campus along with arrange a campus visit for Native American high school students. These groups will join our efforts and hopefully hold meetings in the NALC’s Red Jacket Hall space.

I anticipate a very strong program will be developed for Native American UB students. With the Red Jacket Hall setting and significance along with the support and reputation of the Native American Center for Wellness Research, the NALC program could be a national model for improving the academic successes and experiences of Native American college students. I look forward to being directly involved in shaping and directing the NALC program and hope the new proposal is given careful consideration. It seems the NACL could be a staging ground for many academic and social activities that will increase Native American success at UB. I will keep everyone posted.

Peace, DAP