Our Initiatives

Our Initiatives

AIHEC, established and governed by the nation’s Tribal Colleges and Universities (TCUs), provides support and advocacy services to its membership—particularly in partnership with federal agencies and national organizations and programs—to provide the programmatic needs of TCUs.


The AIHEC Tribal VISTA Project recruits AmeriCorps VISTA volunteers to serve at TCUs and other Tribal organizations across the country. Our VISTA assignments help these institutions build capacity in three areas: education, environmental stewardship, and health promotion. Members spearhead projects ranging from climate resilience workshops to native food classes and financial literacy programs. To learn more about our program, meet our team of volunteers, and view current openings, please visit our website.


Research activities at AIHEC evolved from the AIHEC Board of Directors Fall 1994 Strategic Plan, which established research as the Consortium’s second priority, and a 1996 directive from the Board of Directors, to include research as part of the Consortium’s core operations and develop a national database on TCUs to collect data on TCUs enrollment, budgets, curricula, facilities, services, and student outcomes.

AIHEC’s landmark data collection initiative, American Indian Measures of Success (AIHEC AIMS), was launched in 2004 with generous funding from the Lumina Foundation for Education. AIHEC AIMS helps build capacity in data collection and accountability at TCUs and, in doing so, strengthens the ability of TCUs to measure success, build the foundation for systemic program change, and ultimately increase the participation and success of American Indian students in higher education. REPORTS

AIHEC Athletic Committee & Athletic Commission

Tribal Colleges and Universities endorse the value of athletics as part of a holistic education program. AIHEC-sanctioned athletic competition is a privilege with academics acknowledged as a first priority for our students.

The AIHEC Athletic Commission was established in 2003 for the purpose of formalizing and governing the AIHEC athletic events. The Athletic Commission is a subcommittee which reports to the AIHEC Student Activities Committee.

Aseto’ne Network Project

This project is a broad multi-institutional initiative designed to coordinate outreach, education and mentoring services provided by the nation’s 38 Tribal Colleges and Universities (TCUs). This initiative is a collaboration between the University of Nebraska Medical Center and AIHEC. MORE

Behavioral Health NARCH

The goal of the first annual AIHEC Behavioral Health Institute was to weave together the theory and practice of Historical Trauma and Community-Based Participatory Research (CBPR) through presentations, discussion with community-academic partners, small group breakouts, interactive activities, reflections on readings, and reflection on one’s own research experience. Participants gained an appreciation of the impact of historical trauma and CBPR strengths and challenges, as well as learned hands-on skills necessary for participating effectively in CBPR projects. PRESENTATIONS

BNSF Railway Foundation

The AIHEC/BNSF (Burlington Northern Santa Fe) Tribal College and University Nation Building Initiative supports projects that advance the common goal of TCUs to support and further the nation-building efforts of American Indian tribes. Awardee TCUs are implementing projects spanning a wide range of activities, including course development, faculty and staff professional development, workforce development, and community service projects. Projects were selected for their relevance to nation-building (including development of the next generation of tribal leaders). A strong emphasis was placed on innovative proposals that could be replicated across Indian country.

Current National Building projects are:

  1. Northwest Indian College: Online course development for the Tribal Governance and Business Management Program
  2. Turtle Mountain Community College: Spirit-to-Spirit Institutional Leadership Development
  3. Little Big Horn College: Work Readiness Program
  4. Southwest Indian Polytechnic Institute: Nation Building curriculum development: Entrepreneurship, Bookkeeping, and a special topics course with a practicum in Tribal Issue Solving and Leadership

International Programs:

  • DoED Internationalization at TCUs
    World Indigenous Nations Higher Education Consortium (WINHEC), a non-profit international Indigenous organization based in New Zealand, provides an international forum and support for Indigenous Peoples to pursue common goals through higher education. AIHEC was a founder of WINHEC as a direct result of their involvement in the 1999 World Indigenous Peoples Conference on Education (WIPCE), an international Indigenous education conference held every three years. Through funding from the W. K. Kellogg Foundation, AIHEC provides support to pursue common goals through higher education by providing U.S.-based involvement in advancing the goals of WINHEC. WINHEC


The partnership between NASA’s One Stop Shopping Initiative (OSSI) and AIHEC will lead a series of student recruitment, retention, and development efforts at Tribal Colleges and Universities. OSSI is a broad initiative that supports both minority and majority institutions with the purpose of providing university students nationwide increased awareness of internship, fellowship, and scholarship opportunities offered by NASA Mission Directorates and Centers. OSSI enables eligible students to easily access and apply to opportunities at NASA, and to be reengaged throughout their academic careers. In collaboration with NASA are external stakeholders that help support the entry of students into the NASA workforce, including industry and academia.

For these opportunities, a student must meet the following qualifications:

  1. Be a United States citizen
  2. Be enrolled full time at an accredited university
  3. Have a 2.8 GPA

Interested students and faculty should begin the application process immediately by setting up an account and creating an interest profile on the NASA Office of Education OSSI LaunchPad website.

Need help requesting a Letter of Recommendation? Complete the Student Biography form and return to your recommender.

The first Tribal College NASA Student Ambassador, Marie Kingbird Lowry, Leech Lake Tribal College, speaks about her experience.

NIHB RPMS Curriculum Development

National Indian Health Board

NSF Indigenous Evaluation Framework

The AIHEC Indigenous Evaluation Framework is committed to maintain, restore, and preserve American Indians’ and Alaskan Natives’ values, wisdom and traditional pedagogies and knowledge through curricula and programs designed to make learning more meaningful to tribal situations and cultures among tribal college and K-12 educators.

The major goal of this initiative was to improve the evaluation of STEM program in TCUs and in schools or state/federal agencies that influence K-12 Indian education. In the past five years, AIHEC has had considerable support from these institutions, most of which have sent participants to one of the nine workshops conducted in the last three years of this initiative. Participants at these workshops represented a significant number of tribal colleges and a broad range of individuals engaged in American Indian K-12 education.


First Americans Land-grant College Organization and Network (FALCON) is a non-profit, professional association, sanctioned by motion of the AIHEC Board of Directors that represents administrators, faculty and staff at 1994 Land-Grant Institutions (Tribal Colleges and Universities). The FALCON portal shares information, fosters partnerships, promotes professional development and serves as a resource center for its members.


    The Energy Department, the American Indian Higher Education Consortium and the American Indian Science and Engineering Society have partnered to bring science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) research and education funding to our nation’s TCUs and other United States universities around the country. The program, American Indian Research and Education Initiative (AIREI) is funding six schools—three pairs of tribal colleges and mainstream universities—to fund student and faculty research teams to bring energy projects to tribal land:
  1. The research team from Navajo Technical College and Arizona State University will assess the effectiveness of solar photovoltaic system designs in meeting the electricity demands of Navajo homes and public buildings and develop solar technology curriculum that incorporates the outcomes of this study, helping to advance solar system design and installation on local tribal lands.
  2. The research team from Little Big Horn College and Montana State University-Bozeman will develop fast growing strains of nitrogen-fixing cyanobacteria to help advance carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) technologies. The research will support the Crow Nation reservation as it evaluates opportunities for coal-to-liquid fuel and CCS projects.
  3. The research team from Sinte Gleska University and South Dakota School of Mines and Technology will use computer modeling and simulation technologies to evaluate the feasibility of oil and gas development from the Niobrara Formation on Rosebud Sioux reservation. Through this project, the students will build skills in applied energy-related research involving computer simulations, chemistry, geology and petroleum engineering.
  • EPA Tribal ecoAmbassadors
    A partnership of U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and AIHEC for the Tribal ecoAmbassadors program link the TCU professors and students with EPA scientists to solve environmental problems most important to their tribal communities. Reports and Video
  • Chicago School of Professional Psychiatry OURS
    AIHEC is collaborating with the Chicago School of Professional Psychiatry to implement a TCU component of the Opportunities for Underrepresented Scholars (OURS) program, funded by the National Science Foundation. OURS was originally designed to provide female faculty in the STEM disciplines at HBCUs post-graduate training in educational leadership with a focus on STEM pedagogical issues and academic leadership challenges. AIHEC is working with the Chicago School to refine the context and offerings of the certificate program to address the cultural and academic context of tribal colleges. Twelve female STEM faculty at TCUs will be recruited to participate in the 2015 OURS cohort.
    AIHEC is initiating two new projects focusing on American Indian farming, ranching, and resource management practices with funding from the USDA Outreach and Assistance for Socially Disadvantaged Farmers and Ranchers and Veteran Farmers and Rancher (OASDFR) Program and the Natural Resource Conservation Services (NRCS). The AIHEC Growing Native American Agriculture project will provide direct training and technical assistance to approximately 120 American Indian farmers, ranchers and veterans on best agricultural business practices. NRCS funding will support 12 Tribal Colleges and Universities (TCUs) working with American Indian farmers, ranchers and communities to strengthen their agricultural, financial, and natural resource management practices through training, information sharing workshops and one-on-one technical assistance.
    AIHEC, in collaboration with the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities (HACU) and the National Association for Equal Opportunity in Higher Education (NAFEO) worked with a representative set of principal stakeholders associated with broadening participation in STEM to develop a model for closing the gap between research and practice. The project design team employed a strategic gaming methodology, the “Prosperity Game,” to develop the framework for a network of stakeholder relationships with the purpose to increase the responsiveness of STEM education programs. The key stakeholders engaged in the national effort included federal agencies, non-profit organizations with a STEM focus, K-12 schools, higher education and research institutions, researchers, and technology and innovation leaders. RP2 Game: Research Practice Collaboration

Student Success

  • MSI Strategies for Success—Walmart
    AIHEC, in collaboration with HACU and NAFEO received support from the Walmart Foundation for the Walmart AIHEC HACU NAFEO Student Success Collaborative. The purpose of this $3 million project is to increase college success rates at these Minority Serving Institutions (MSIs). Combined, these three partner organizations educate a large segment of African American, American Indian, and Hispanic students, who are disproportionately low-income, first generation, and historically underserved.
    The chief goal of Widening Implementation & Demonstration of Evidence Based Reforms (WIDER) is to transform institutions of higher education into supportive environments for STEM faculty members to substantially increase their use of evidence-based teaching and learning practices and improve the effectiveness of STEM courses and programs in preparing TCU students for participation in the national STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) workforce. This project, the National Science Foundation (NSF)-AIHEC TCU STEM Student Success Collaborative, will assist TCU faculty working in supportive environments both within their institutions and across a cohort of institutions. The project aims to increase the use of evidence-based teaching and learning practices associated with the problem-based learning model (PBL). AIHEC will establish a multi-campus team of STEM faculty and academic administrators focused on incorporating culturally and community relevant PBL into the colleges’ STEM programs.

The Alliance

The Alliance for Equity in Higher Education, a program managed by IHEP, was established in 1999 by AIHEC, Asian American & Pacific Islander Association of Colleges and Universities (APIACU), HACU, and NAFEO to represent the shared interests of American Indian Tribal Colleges and Universities, Hispanic-Serving Institutions, and Historically and Predominantly Black Colleges and Universities. Together, AIHEC, APIACU, HACU and NAFEO represent more than 350 minority-serving institutions (MSIs) that educate more than one-third of the nation’s students of color. In addition to providing quality higher education opportunities, our institutions are well known for their unique ability to foster cultural values and traditions, promote civic and community responsibility, and produce citizens who are exceptionally attuned to the increasingly diverse country in which we live. The Alliance unites our diverse communities and institutions to enhance the nation’s economic competitiveness, social stability, and cultural richness. The Alliance Map