Strategic Partnerships & Research

In addition to our three core programs – Pre-College, College and Professional – AISES also engages in strategic partnerships and conducts research to further our mission of substantially increasing the representation of American Indians and Alaskan Natives in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) studies and careers. Current partnerships and projects include: US Department of Energy (DOE) Minorities in Energy Initiative and CHANGES - A Coalition to Advance STEM Diversity​.  

Partnerships and Research Programs

AISES is now a National American Graduate Day 2017 partner with WNET New York Public Media. American Graduate Day was inaugurated six years ago to celebrate the people and organizations working to increase high school graduation rates in the United States. American Graduate Day emphasizes the importance of mentorship and focuses on post–high school pathways to careers that will enable young adults to be successful.

The American Graduate Day message is delivered in a live four-hour national broadcast that tells the stories of “what’s possible” and magnifies the audience’s lens on the world and the opportunities that exist outside their local and regional area. The 2017 American Graduate Day broadcast is scheduled to air on Saturday, October 14, 2017, from 2:00 to 6:00 p.m. eastern time. Check your local listing.

The AISES mission aligns with American Graduate Day because AISES incorporates efforts to increase the representation of indigenous North Americans in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education and careers. At 40 years strong, AISES is unlocking doors for students to increase educational resources, reveal each student’s innate talents and abilities, and illuminate academic achievement.

Education begins with parents and enlists the wide network of support and relationships that students have in their lives with family members, mentors, teachers, and friends. American Graduate Day gets the word out to parents about this support network and highlights a call to action for future planning and career readiness for young adults. A student may have an entrepreneurial mindset or hope to enter military service, follow a trade or vocational path, or complete a two-year degree. Clearly college and career readiness are necessary for success.

Speaking for AISES at American Graduate Day 2017 is Dr. John Herrington, who embodies AISES at its core. A member of the Board of Directors and mentor to many AISES students, Dr. Herrington is a former naval aviator and NASA astronaut. He achieved prominence as the first tribally enrolled American Indian in space. A member of the Chickasaw Nation, Dr. Herrington has been inspiring Indigenous Peoples and audiences across the world. He was one of seven crewmembers on the STS-113 Endeavour in 1992, the 16th Shuttle mission to the International Space Station. Dr. Herrington has a bachelor of science degree in applied mathematics, a master of science degree in aeronautical engineering, and a doctorate in education.

AISES is now accepting applications for the 4th “Lighting the Pathway to Faculty Careers for Natives in STEM” cohort!

All applications and supporting documents must be received by July 24, 2017.


In 2014, AISES was awarded a 5-year grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to create the “Lighting the Pathway to Faculty Careers for Natives in STEM” program.  The program’s goal is to increase the representation of American Indians, Alaska Native, and Native Hawaiians in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) faculty positions at universities and tribal colleges across the country.  The program aims to create an intergenerational community of undergraduate and graduate students, postdoctoral scholars, and junior and senior faculty members.  This full circle of support will help guide students to successful degree completion and advancement to the next stage on the academic career path.  In addition to full circle mentorship, the program strives to provide students with valuable academic and professional support, travel funding, and educational, research, fellowship, and internship opportunities.


  • Full time undergraduate student, graduate student, or postdoctoral scholar in a field within Biological Sciences, Mathematical and Physical Sciences, Geosciences, Computer and Information Science and Engineering, STEM Education, or Engineering at an accredited four-year college/university or two-year college.  Must be enrolled in a program leading to an academic degree.
  •  Interest in becoming a faculty member at a college, university, or tribal college.
  • Have a 3.0 (on a 4.0 scale) or higher cumulative grade point average (GPA), with consideration being given to applicants reflecting somewhat lower GPAs but with high potential to raise the GPA above 3.0.
  • Current member of AISES.

Selection of students will seek balance with respect to a diversity of tribes, geographic areas in the United States, STEM majors, and gender. While the focus is primarily on American Indians, Alaskan Natives, and Native Hawaiians, all AISES members are eligible. The selection process will attempt to ensure that a diversity of STEM disciplines is reflected.

Scholars in the program will receive an annual participation stipend of $2,250 for two years, and two years of travel funding to attend the AISES National Conference and AISES Leadership Summit or discipline-specific professional conference.  Scholars will be matched with an AISES selected faculty mentor to interact with at least monthly.  Scholars are required to participate in skill-building, professional-development in-person programming and webinars.  Finally, scholars will have the opportunity to engage in an active community of Native STEM researchers.

Application instructions:

  • You must be either an undergraduate student, graduate student, or post-doctoral fellow to apply.
  • Complete the “Lighting the Pathway” application online:
    • Applicants should be prepared to answer the following essay questions during the application:
      • Why do you want to participate in this program? (250 words or less)
      • Explain your STEM research interests and provide explanations of your previous research experiences. (500 words or less) 
      • Briefly explain how you deal with setbacks, failures, or adversity. (250 words or less)
      • Provide an example where accountability played an important role in your success. (250 words or less)
      • Explain your current professional career goals. (250 words or less)
  • Submit the following supporting documents to
    • Unofficial transcript(s)
    • CV/Resume
    • One Letter of Recommendation
  • Application and supporting documents are due July 24, 2017 by 5:00pm (applicant’s time zone)

If you have any questions, please contact Kathy DeerInWater at or 720-552-6123 ext. 107.

Begin Application

Mini-Grant Opportunities in the Geosciences 

With a grant from the National Science Foundation Geoscience Education Directorate, AISES developed a new, innovative AISES service learning education and outreach projects in geoscience education for tribal communities. The goals of this program are: 1) to increase the number of Native citizen participation in and community awareness of the geosciences; 2) to increase the number of Native American undergraduate students majoring in geoscience fields or integrating geoscience-related coursework and knowledge into their science, technology, engineering or mathematic (STEM) field of study.

A competitive application process was used to fund small-scale community-based, service learning education and outreach projects on geosciences topics. Each chapter was awarded up to $7000 for projects lasting one semester.  Selected projects delivered informal science education activities for Native Americans in urban or rural communities on or off of Tribal Lands. The projects were managed and implemented by students and AISES College Chapter members.

AISES has awarded two cycles of grants to the following AISES chapters:

2012 AISES College Chapter Grantees

  • College of the Menominee Nation
  • Salish Kootenai College
  • Southwestern Indian Polytechnic Institute
  • University of Minnesota-Morris
  • University of Arizona
  • University of Arkansas

2013 AISES College Chapter Grantees

  • Mendocino Community College
  • Montana State University- Bozeman
  • Purdue University
  • Salish Kootenai College
  • University of Minnesota- Twin Cities
  • University of Utah

American Indian Research and Education Initiative

In partnership with the Department of Energy, the American Indian Higher Education Consortium (AIHEC) and the American Indian Science and Engineering Society (AISES) are supporting projects to foster tribal community-based energy research, technology transfer, economic development, and public education projects. These projects connect science education and research among American Indian college students and faculty at Tribal Colleges and Universities (TCUs) with mainstream higher education institutions while helping to address Tribal community energy priorities.

The overarching objective of AIREI is to foster the development of future American Indian scientists, engineers and leaders with the scientific and technological skills to assist Tribal communities (and the nation) in developing and managing energy resources.  Program goals are: 1) to engage American Indian college students in relevant and exciting applied research engineering, and technology transfer projects conducted on Tribal lands; 2) to strengthen and enhance access by American Indian college students to energy-relevant STEM education programming, and 3) to establish a community of energy practice involving faculty and students from TCUs and mainstream institutions, and DOE/National Laboratory research, engineering, and education personnel.

AIREI project grantees are:

  • Arizona State University* and Navajo Technical University
  • Montana State University* and Little Bighorn College
  • Northern Arizona University* and Southwestern Indian Polytechnic Institute
  • South Dakota School of Mines and Technology* and SInte Gleska University

*portion of project managed by AISES

DOE Minorities in Energy Initiative

The Minorities in Energy Initiative addresses the needs of underrepresented communities in the energy sector and aligns with President Obama’s agenda for engaging more Americans in energy and science, technology, engineering, and math fields. The Minorities in Energy Initiative, guided by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Economic Impact and Diversity, seeks to create a substantive, sustainable model that connects diverse stakeholders together to address challenges and opportunities for minority engagement in energy economic participation, STEM education, and climate change. Currently, AISES CEO, Sarah EchoHawk is serving as an ambassador for the initiative. To learn more, go to:

CHANGES - A Coalition to Advance STEM Diversity​

AISES recently became a member of “CHANGES” (Coalition of Hispanics, African and Native Americans for the Next Generation of Engineers and Scientists) works to diversify the STEM workforce and to enhance the professional development of people of color in STEM. CHANGES is also working with the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) in finding ways to increase the number of minorities in STEM.

National Science Foundation Reese Project

This project is an empirical research study using a resiliency-based framework to investigate the factors that contribute to American Indian and Alaska Native (AI-AN) success and achievement in STEM education and careers.  The focus is on what makes people successful rather than what makes them fail.  It was developed through a partnership between the American Indian Science and Engineering Society (AISES), the Office for Community Health (OCH) at the University of New Mexico (UNM), and Northwestern University.  The aim of this research is to identify the role of culture, individual identity, epistemology and bi-cultural efficacy in this process.  This information is particularly salient in the face of the continuing stagnation of AI-AN STEM graduation rates and the ongoing need for expansion and equity in the STEM pipeline that has been identified as a national priority (e.g. National Academy of Sciences, 2011).  Our hypothesis is that AI-AN success in stem is influenced by dynamics of culture, epistemology and individual identity, with the role of bi-cultural efficacy being particularly significant.  We are interested in knowing: (a) What factors positively influence AI-AN success in STEM?;  (b) What role do the dynamics of culture, epistemology and individual identity play in AI-AN success in STEM and how are these dynamics played-out in individual experience?;  and (c) Does bi-cultural efficacy play a role in this process, and if so, what is that role?  This study has four specific research objectives:  (1) To conduct an ethnographic study that will provide information to guide intervention efforts and investment of resources to support AI-AN students in STEM education by developing an understanding of factors associated with AI-AN STEM success. For example, the extent to which successful individuals develop a “STEM” identity, how this happens, how this process relates to an individual’s cultural identity and understanding of Native versus Western science, and the types of personal and cultural “assets” that successful individuals bring to bear on their educational and career pathways;  (2) To leverage existing data on AI-AN through secondary analysis of a unique AISES archive to provide information to inform future AI-AN STEM interventions and funding, and to improve AISES’ capacity to capture longitudinal data related to AI-AN achievement in STEM; (3) To provide concrete opportunities for AI-AN scholars to obtain research experience to nurture concrete understanding of what it means to “do” science research as a career; and (4) To disseminate findings to AI-AN communities, policy makers, academic institutions, industry, the scientific community and to AISES members.  Results of this study will expand understanding of AI-AN educational and professional outcomes in STEM, provide a roadmap for improving the efficacy of interventions intended to increase AI-AN participation and success in STEM, and indicate directions for future research. 

This interdisciplinary project will partner researchers from Anthropology, Psychology and Economics/Public Health with AISES to contribute a unique perspective on Native participation in STEM.  The proposed collaboration uses a mixed methods design, beginning with an ethnographic approach that will build on advances in knowledge from the extensive literature on deficits and barriers, and nascent research on epistemology, adding new empirical data.  A conscious decision is being made to privilege voices of Native scholars whose experience is not well represented in mainstream perspectives or taken into consideration by policy makers.  Adaptive project design through iterative data collection and analysis with synthesis and incorporation of findings from different components ongoing throughout the study will allow for dynamic inclusion of participant input.  The study includes four separate but integrated research components:  (1) 75 in-depth ethnographic interviews with 25 AI-AN STEM professionals and AISES members, conducted in three iterative sets of 25 each; (2) Three AI-AN undergraduate Student Research Scientists (SRS’s) from UNM will be mentored in the conduct of 36 peer interviews (12 each) with other AI-AN students; (3) Secondary analysis of unique AISES organizational archive with 35 years of information on more than 6000+ AI-AN involved in STEM; and (4) a preliminary survey will be conducted in year three of the project with 25 AISES members to validate measures of bi-cultural efficacy that contribute to AI-AN success in STEM.  We will mentor Native scholars to develop protocols, collect and analyze data, present findings, and participate as members of the Research Team.  A Project Advisory Board that includes national-level experts and scientists will provide guidance for research design, project evaluation, and dissemination of results.  A Project Summit in Year #3 will disseminate project findings to a broad group of AISES stakeholders.  This project will also structure a new role for AISES to play in the STEM community by leveraging the unique position of AISES as a national AI-AN STEM organization.  Through this study, we will identify ways to enhance the capacity of AISES to generate improved and ongoing information on the AI-AN experience in STEM via the development of data collection protocols and data collection tools that can continue to be used for research in the future.  

This research will reveal previously under-studied, poorly understood aspects of the AI-AN experience in STEM, using a non-deficit, resiliency-based, success-focused model.  Results will inform understanding of how AI-AN individuals leverage personal and cultural assets in a way that embraces a congruency between Indigenous culture (Native science) and Western science as they achieve success in STEM.  This information will contribute to the literature analyzing issues in AI-AN education and under-representation in STEM.  And most importantly, this research may lay the foundation for increasing the proportion of AI-AN scientists.  Factors that contribute to success and achievement of AI-AN in STEM are often unrecognized, underappreciated or poorly understood.  The improved coherence of interventions that will result from better conceptualization of the strengths and needs of AI-AN students will provide a roadmap for developing best-practice and model-driven programming within universities, improve AI-AN educational outcomes in STEM, and in turn, contribute to improvements in AI-AN individual and community well-being.  Better understanding of these issues, better allocation of resources and design of policies, more coherence to interventions, more focus on strengths and needs, and improvements in individual and community well-being will all contribute to increasing AI-AN participation in STEM.  This information will provide a guide for targeting resources and interventions to improve educational and professional outcomes for AI-AN students in STEM.  This, in turn, will increase AI-AN participation in STEM careers and career pathways with the expected indirect effect of reducing educational, career, and health disparities in AI-AN communities..