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Release: Immediate

UI summer program gives American Indian students experience in science

IOWA CITY, Iowa ­- American Indian high school students from across the country are getting a glimpse of college life on the University of Iowa campus. They are participants in an intensive three-week program that focuses on the health, life and environmental sciences and offers students from different tribes a chance to learn about each other's cultures.

For 10 years the American Indian Science and Engineering Society (AISES) Summer Program in the Life Sciences has blended college-level lectures, laboratory work, computer experience, field trips and other activities at the UI. It is one of several such programs sponsored by AISES on college campuses.

Joe Coulter, Ph.D., professor in the department of anatomy and cell biology, UI associate provost and director of Opportunity at Iowa, is a member of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation and the camp director. He said that former AISES program participants have gone on to success in their college careers at the UI and other institutions throughout the United States.

"The AISES camps help students focus their educational and career interests while introducing them to college," he said.

Program faculty members include American Indian teachers and role models who come to the UI camp from across the country. This year's teachers are John Brewer (Oglala Lakota) of Pine Ridge, S.D., and Carolyn Penning (Ojibway/Potawatomi) of Saint Paul, Minn.

Brewer, head teacher for the program since its inception, said the experience prepares students for work in the sciences, engineering, mathematics, business, environmental and health fields. The program also addresses how to integrate modern sciences with traditional knowledge and encourages students to work in teams, sharing their beliefs, heritage, knowledge and skills.

This year students will be presenting their research projects using computers and hope to make their work available on the UI/AISES Summer Program Web site.

Some 37 students representing 18 tribes and 10 states are participating in this year's UI program. They will be on campus through June 27. All will enter 10th grade in the fall.

Though the program features extensive science work, it also provides plenty of time for social activities like bowling, skating, and boating and swimming at Lake Macbride. Students get a feel for the UI campus, including life in Currier Residence Hall and educational opportunities available in various UI colleges.

Coulter added that many students express interest in eventually returning to their communities as scientists, health care providers, educators or other professionals.

The program is funded by a grant from AISES, the DeWitt-Wallace Readers Digest Fund and the UI.