“Tënödeyësdahgwá’geh, that word translates to something like, there where they learn. That is the world that the Seneca elders use [for school],” wrote Robbie Jimerson (Seneca), a computing and information sciences doctoral student at RIT
On Friday, April 5, the 2019 Native American Outreach Day was held at the Rochester Institute of Technology. Native American Outreach Day (NAOD) is an annual one-day conference that brings Native American high school students to RIT. Its goals include increasing the number of Indigenous students who enroll in four-year colleges and universities.
“Outreach Day first started as a way to introduce Native students to the RIT campus. The first year, I was focused on bringing in numbers of students, and hosting a program. But over the years, I have challenged myself to be creative and to create a day that is engaging as well as informative,” said Nicole Scott (Navajo), Director of the Native American Future Stewards Program.
This year, students from Akron High School, Lafayette Junior Senior High School, Silver Creek Central School and the RCSD School of the Art toured RIT, and attended one of two workshops put on by the RIT Office of Career Services and Cooperative Education and Professor Mindy Magyar from the College of Arts and Design.
“This year, I wanted the undecided students to know that it is okay to not know what they want to major in. Janine (Rowe) and Carolyn (DeHority) from Career Services helped students assess their strengths from their interests. We also have some great artists in our communities, but rarely do they have the guidance that helps them prepare to apply to prestigious art programs. Luckily, we have Professor Magyar in the School of Design and she held a portfolio workshop,” Scott said.
In addition to these workshops, the students lunched with staff from the Multicultural Center for Academic Success (MCAS) and the Office for Diversity & Inclusion, and current Native student leaders from the American Indian Science and Engineering Society (AISES). AISES members spoke to prospective students about studying abroad, being a student leader, connecting research with culture, and reconnecting with their culture.
"I think the most important thing a prospective student can do is to hear from current students about what it's like here at RIT. Talking to high schoolers made me realize all of the opportunities I've had at RIT and how I wish for other Native American students to get the same opportunities I've had, and more!”, said Anna Jacobson (Bad River Band of the Lake Superior Ojibwe), graduating Mechanical Engineering student and outgoing AISES president.
In addition to having student leaders in the room, prospective students were also impacted by the RIT staff in the room, but they had one piece of advice for next year’s program.
“At the end of the day, I had our visiting students tell me how much they enjoyed the day. They were also really impressed with that it wasn’t just Native staff and students in the room, they were impressed by the diverse support offered at RIT, but they felt something was missing—lacrosse. I will work on that,” said Scott. “I want RIT to be a place where Native students can learn and grow, all while surrounded by their culture."