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A new Department of Education grant to UNC-Chapel Hill will allow the American Indian Center to hire a full-time student engagement coordinator to help Native students apply to and succeed at the University.


The grant comes from the Department of Education’s new First in the World program, created to drive innovations in higher education that increase college completion, value and affordability. The program’s goal is to make the U.S. once again the nation with the highest proportion of college graduates. Only 24 of the 500 applicants were selected to receive a share of the fund’s initial $75 million.


At UNC, Abigail Panter will receive $3 million over four years to develop the Finish Line Project, designed to improve undergraduate retention. Panter is senior associate dean for undergraduate education and psychology professor in the College of Arts and Sciences, and the grant’s executive director is Cynthia Demetriou, director of undergraduate retention in the college.


The hiring of a new student engagement coordinator at the American Indian Center is part of the Finish Line Project. The person in that position will have these responsibilities:


  • Hosting a week long intensive summer program called Carolina Horizons for 50 select American Indian students to learn about applying to Carolina and begin the application process;
  • Offering a culturally relevant orientation process for American Indian students and their parents at Carolina to bridge the cultural, language and worldview divide for Native students as they integrate into the university;
  • Hosting an annual for-credit seminar for Native and Non Native students raising awareness of American Indians in the state, how to work with Native communities, and engaging Native Nations in research and evaluation;
  • Providing Native Student Professional Development opportunities by establishing formal relationships with highly competitive and well-respected American Indian internship programs in Washington, D.C. and ensuring students are better informed about graduate school offerings and the graduate school application process;
  • Establishing a service learning project with one American Indian community or Native Nation per year.
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