BSU’s Niganawenimaanaanig program awarded new grant

Bemidji State University’s Niganawenimaanaanig Indigenous Nursing Program will continue to receive grant funding in its pursuit of supporting Indigenous student nurses and diversifying the nursing profession.

The program, translated from the Ojibwe to “we take care of them,” was initially awarded a $2 million grant four years ago from the US Department of Health and Human Services’ Nursing Workforce Diversity Program.

After a competitive application process, the program and was awarded a $2.2 million grant this year to continue its work in diversifying the nation’s nursing workforce.

BSU’s Dr. Misty Wilkie created the program, after her experiences as an Indigenous woman, student nurse and professor.

Prior to the creation of the program, the highest number of American Indian nursing students at BSU was six. By 2018, the program increased to 13 Indigenous students, and two years later it doubled to 26 students.

To date, 38 Indigenous students have been served by this nursing program, from 15 tribal nations, and it is averaging 21 students annually.

All program alumni are currently employed in medically underserved communities across the country.

In addition to scholarship funding, program participants also receive monthly stipends to offset program costs.

“Part of American Indian culture is feeling the need to contribute financially to your family,” Wilkie said.

“And oftentimes, students work so much that it interferes with their studying and prevents them from being successful. That’s why we offer stipends – it will help students avoid needing to have jobs outside of school. Studying will be their job.”

The Niganawenimaanaanig team at BSU anticipates that students will experience greater financial hardship due to COVID-19, so academic scholarships and stipends will increase by 100 percent this school year.

Larissa Donovan is the News Director for the stations of Paul Bunyan Broadcasting and has been, almost without interruption, since Election Day 2016. She covers all the beats in north-central Minnesota, such as local government, crime, education, environment and social issues. She studied communications at Bemidji State University. You can follow along with Larissa's live tweets of meetings and events on Twitter!

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