Governor Bill Anoatubby,SE President Larry Minks, Chancellor Glen Johnson and Chief Gregory E. Pyle.
Southeastern OK State University’s Native American Center gets an upgrade
By BRET MOSS Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma
Students at Southeastern Oklahoma State University (SE) in Durant can now experience an ease of access to many resources offered by the university with the opening of its new Center for Student Success.
The center, located in the heart of the campus, is comprised of a group of campus programs, which includes the Native American Center for Student Success (NACSS), Academic Advising and Learning Center, among other programs. These university entities have been moved from separate parts of campus and brought together under one roof in the midst of the highest student traffic area on campus, meaning more attention and ease of access.
A large crowd was on hand as the Center for Student Success officially opened its doors on Jan. 24 with a ribbon cutting and dedication ceremony. The event began in the afternoon with a reception for guests, followed by a dedication service in the atrium of the student union. The sizable audience heard remarks from several state leaders, including Choctaw Nation Chief Gregory E. Pyle, Chickasaw Nation Governor Bill Anoatubby, Oklahoma State Regent John Massey and former SE president and current Chancellor of the Oklahoma State System of Higher Education Glen D. Johnson.
Following the dedication, patrons gathered to witness the ribbon cutting, officially opening of the newest addition to SE’s campus.
Many students who toured the NACSS were pleased to see the new accommodations. “It looks good,” said Dakota Estrada who was quite excited to see where he would be spending his time. Student worker Hailey Cusher followed Estrada by mentioning she preferred the new location, noting it is much easier to find.
The building that houses the center is the former location of the SE bookstore, which moved in 2007. The structure has since been unoccupied due to the requirement of extensive renovations. With those requirements fulfilled, activities will be able to occur in a prime position on campus, which is expected to draw more student interest.
“It is easier for them to find us and I feel like I make more connections here. Having advising so close definitely helps,” said Erin McDaniel, a peer advisor for the Choctaw Scholarship Advisement Program whose office is housed in the center.
The cohabitation of the building with other SE programs will allow more exposure of the center to Native students who may not have known the resources offered to them. The Academic Advising Center is a starting place for all new students, which had previously been on the opposite end of campus, meaning many new Native American students may have missed the original NACSS.
Now that these departments are in the same building, these students are sure to be fully aware of this significant resource they have at their disposal. “I’ve been able to see a lot more Native American Students,” stated academic advisor for the NACSS, Chantelle Standefer.
The previous NACSS helped to enroll students, assisted with schoolwork, and facilitated many events that promoted Native culture. The new facilities will serve all the same functions as well as add a computer lab, conference room, a lobby to serve as a meeting ground for Native American student groups, and more exposure for activities occurring there.
The new center will help “us better serve Native American students and make them more aware of the resources available to them,” mentioned Standefer.
Currently, 30 percent of student body is of Native American decent with Choctaw members comprising the largest of the tribes represented on campus. That 30 percent translates into about 1,100 students with Choctaws numbering over 500, according to Standefer. With Native American students being a large portion of the student body, the upgrade of the NACSS should see even more positive reception and use as time passes.
The new NACSS is filled with cultural artifacts, the majority from the Choctaw Nation, with many donated by the tribe and tribal members. Choctaw baskets, artwork and other artifacts such as stickball sticks line walls and fill display cabinets.
The renovation and relocation of offices was made possible by a combination of a U.S. Department of the Education grant written by SE staff and Chris Wesberry, director of the NACSS, and contributions from SE and other sources. The grant is currently in its second year of its five-year term with a goal of increasing the number of Native American graduates.
To find out more, visit NAC’s web page.