$2.5M grant bolsters Five Colleges indigenous studies program

  • The University of Massachusetts Amherst campus COURTESY PHOTO

  • Laura Furlan UMASS/KATE HUNTER

Staff Writer
Published: 1/15/2020 4:56:21 PM

AMHERST — The Five Colleges will expand on its Native American and Indigenous Studies program with the help of a $2.5 million Andrew W. Mellon Foundation grant. 

The grant, which is among the largest awards that the consortium has received from any funder throughout its 50-year history, will allow the Five Colleges to expand on their pre-existing Native American and indigenous studies certificate program with additions such as three new faculty members, courses, course modules advising structures, and more visiting scholars across the five campuses and stronger relationships with local native and indigenous communities, said Laura Furlan, an associate professor at the University of Massachusetts and chairwoman of the Five College Native and Indigenous Studies Committee.

The colleges have offered a certificate program in Native American and indigenous studies since 2002 and awarded about 29 certificates during this time, according to Furlan, while additional students have pursued a similar certificate that is specific to UMass.

Interest in the Five Colleges program has been on the rise recently, Furlan said, with the number of certificates given out having “tripled in the last couple years.” But with grant-funded additions, the committee hopes to attract even more students.

“It is a big deal, and I think the Five Colleges should be excited about it,” said Furlan, who described the grant as “huge.”

Sarah Pfatteicher, executive director of the Five Colleges, said that the funding will also allow the consortium to give greater acknowledgment to area native and indigenous communities.

“At its root, all five of our campuses sit on land that has been native land for much longer than our campuses have sat on them,” Pfatteicher said, “so I think, given the history of this space, it’s important for us to acknowledge that and built that into our curriculum.”

While the current certificate program offers one avenue to study native and indigenous studies, the grant may open additional pathways, such as variations on the certificate or a minor, Pfatteicher said.

Individual campuses will also have the ability to decide the exact program offerings that result from the grant, Furlan added. In addition to UMass, the five colleges consist of Amherst, Smith, Hampshire and Mount Holyoke colleges. 

The faculty committee will convene at the end of the month to begin planning out the grant’s usage, Furlan said, and will also connect with local indigenous communities during this process. The Five Colleges will also hold its annual Native American Indigenous Symposium in April, which will coincide with the 400th anniversary of the founding of the Plymouth colony.

“We’re kind of planning a response to those celebrations” by highlighting native speakers and storytellers on campus, Furlan said. “It’s kind of talking back to some of the statewide planning for those (Plymouth) celebrations.”

Jacquelyn Voghel can be reached at jvoghel@gazettenet.com. 

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