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BHSU wants to offer master degree in American Indian studies for 2017

PIERRE—Black Hills State University wants to offer South Dakota's first master degree in American Indian studies.

The state Board of Regents will decide in the coming days whether Black Hills State can start to plan the program.

The regents, who govern the state universities, meet Thursday and Friday in Rapid City at South Dakota School of Mines and Technology.

Black Hills State is based in Spearfish and also manages the university center campus in Rapid City.

The preliminary documents provided to the regents show Black Hills State would offer a two-track approach in the American Indian studies master program.

One track would focus on tribal leadership and governance. The other track would concentrate on American Indian education.

Enrollment is estimated to be 10 to 12 students per year.

Black Hills State planners expect demand for master-level students would come from education institutions, including tribal colleges and universities, government agencies and centers for research and policy.

The university already offers, at the bachelor-degree level, a major and a minor in American Indian studies.

That's one reason why Tom Jackson Jr. thinks the master program would fit well. He is president of Black Hills State University.

"BHSU has a long history and takes pride in serving Native students," Jackson said Friday.

"We look forward to continuing that history through the establishment of this master's degree in American Indian studies," he continued.

One of the regents' goals is increasing the numbers of American Indian students attending the state universities and graduating.

The master program would start fall 2017 and be mainly available online.

During the past year, Black Hills State was placed in the lead role for South Dakota's GEAR UP program.

That came after the state Department of Education terminated its contract with Mid-Central Educational Cooperative.

GEAR UP, which is federally funded, helps high school students from lower-income families, primarily in Indian country, better understand what is necessary for higher education after high school graduation.

Black Hills State currently offers seven master-degree programs. They gradually have been added since 2001.

The university's minor in American Indian studies started in 1974. The major began in 1997.

The University of South Dakota offers a certificate in American Indian education.

Among neighboring states, a few institutions have programs:

*University of Minnesota-Duluth offers a master of tribal administration and governance.

*Montana State University at Bozeman has a master in American Indian studies.

*The University of Wyoming has a graduate minor in American Indian studies.

North Dakota doesn't offer a program.

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