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American Indian Graduate Center launches Empowering Scholars Initiative

ALBUQUERQUE – In honor of Native American Heritage Month, American Indian Graduate Center has established the Empowering Scholars Initiative, which will increase the organization’s reach as it transforms the educational journeys of Native scholars.

The $1M scholarship launch is set to happen on November 1, 2020, thanks to the generosity of MacKenzie Scott. By implementing the Empowering Scholars Initiative, American Indian Graduate Center has the ability to fund first- and second-generation decedents, part-time students, Ph.D. candidates pursuing research opportunities and scholars taking graduate entrance exams for the first time in its 50-year history. The funding will also allow the organization to continue providing COVID-19 relief funding to Native students across the United States.

“The Empowering Scholars Initiative is a direct response to the needs expressed by our students. We are particularly excited to fund Ph.D. research and graduate school testing fees, as over 45% of our scholars surveyed annually request these services” said Angelique Albert (Confederated Salish & Kootenai Tribes), American Indian Graduate Center Executive Director.

“The impacts of COVID-19 have created additional challenges for our scholars to stay in college and exacerbated the need for scholarships. We have seen a significant increase (15%) in the number of requests for part-time funding due to the impacts of the pandemic. We also continue to address emergency needs of our scholars. Since the start of the pandemic, we have supported 14% of our scholars with funding for basic necessities like food and shelter so they could continue on their educational path. These are the realities of what Native students are facing right now and it is our responsibility to ensure we are working to meet these needs. We are committed to providing all the necessary tools for Native students to be successful in college and beyond.”

American Indian Graduate Center and AIGCS have empowered more than 16,000 alumni pursuing undergraduate, graduate and professional degrees since inception. Yet, due to a lack of available funding, the organization is unable to fund 82% of the students that apply for scholarships annually.

The Empowering Scholars Initiative is a pivotal step to change that.

“With 50 years of data and informed best practices, American Indian Graduate Center has the expertise to identify the most critical needs of our scholars and implement effective solutions – and that is exactly what we’ve done in the Empowering Scholars Initiative. We have been given the opportunity to create programming that has a generational impact on Indian Country and we intend to empower as many scholars as possible,” Albert said.

This initiative is an unprecedented move for American Indian Graduate Center because it creates opportunities to fund up to 53% more students this year who were not able to receive support previously –renewing the organization’s commitment to realizing its mission and vision of fulfilling the unmet need of every Native student.

The $1 million initiative will be divided into four categories: Direct Scholarships An $800,000 mid-semester, need-based scholarship opportunity is available to Native students, including first- and second-generation descendants, as well as part-time students who were unable to apply or access American Indian Graduate Center funding due to the initial COVID-19 outbreak. These scholars now have the opportunity to apply to help alleviate educational costs and continue their pursuit of higher education.

Recognizing the continued effects of COVID-19 and the daily challenges facing Native college students, American Indian Graduate Center established the Student Relief Scholarship. This $100,000 fund will be utilized to help support Native students in emergency situations including purchasing food, emergency travel costs, emergency housing costs, technology access or other educational expenses.

American Indian Graduate Center created a $50,000 program dedicated solely to funding student research. These one-time, $5,000 scholarships will be awarded to doctoral candidates that are in their current data collection or analysis phase whose work centers on issues of social and racial diversity and equity in Indian Country. These funds will support candidates in need of assistance with costs related to their data collection and data analysis processes.

American Indian Graduate Center’s Access Scholarship has allocated $50,000 to provide one-time awards for up to 160 students to cover their test fees for GRE, GMAT, MCAT, LSAT or PCAT exams. The cost and accessibility of these exams present a barrier for Native students looking to pursue graduate-level education.

American Indian Graduate Center is a national private 501(c) (3) non-profit providing scholarships to American Indian and Alaska Native undergraduate, graduate and professional students throughout the United States. American Indian Graduate Center and American Indian Graduate Center Scholars are the largest scholarship providers to Native students in the United States. They have awarded more than $350 million in scholarships since inception and are proud to empower Native students from over 500 Tribes in all 50 states with educational funding and academic support services.


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