University of Wyoming Associate Dean of Students Nycole Courtney has been named interim director of UW’s Native American Education, Research and Cultural Center (NAERCC).
Courtney, who began her new duties Sept. 1, replaces James Trosper, who is moving full time to his new position as project coordinator for the High Plains American Indian Research Institute (HPAIRI), which is under the Office of Research and Economic Development.
A national search is planned for the NAERCC director.
The NAERCC, located in the facility that formerly housed UW’s Honors Program on the corner of 10th and Ivinson streets, is a “living-learning community” that supports the academic achievement and personal success of Native American students while promoting traditional culture.
The center is part of UW President Laurie Nichols’ plan to increase the numbers of American Indian students, including members of the Eastern Shoshone and Northern Arapaho tribes of the Wind River Indian Reservation, who enroll in and graduate from UW. The center will help UW fulfill its mission of providing opportunities for personal growth, physical health and leadership development for Native American students, helping them connect their traditions and cultures to their education.
“I am humbled by the opportunity that President Nichols and the advisory board have provided me,” Courtney says. “This is an exciting time to be part of the NAERCC, and I look forward to meeting and working with all the students. As interim director, it will be important to continue to build on the great work that is already being done in advancing student development and learning.”
The NAERCC houses the offices of program adviser Reinette Tendore, who is in charge of student programming; Angela Jamie, associate professor for Native American and indigenous studies; as well as the assistant professor for linguistics anthropology. The center also collaborates with the faculty and staff at HPAIRI. The UW recognized student organization Keepers of the Fire meets weekly in the center and welcomes any new or returning students to join the club.
As interim dean of students last year, Courtney served as Tendore’s supervisor and worked closely with all of UW’s Native initiatives throughout the year.
Tendore says Courtney’s name was brought to the UW Native American Advisory Committee by Nichols to serve as the center’s interim director because of her continued support of Native students, faculty and staff.
“She has built some solid relationships with the Native community over the year. With my first semester in this position under my belt, I owe a lot of the success to her,” Tendore says. “Without the support from Nycole, a lot of the programming and work toward our goals for Native student recruitment and retention would not be where we are today with our increasing numbers.”
She adds that Courtney also was a big part of the Native American Summer Institute for high school students this past summer as a collaborative team member.
The NAERCC assists in boosting graduation rates among Wind River Indian Reservation students, and also will help Native American students adjust to the individualistic academic environment while maintaining the Native value system.
“My goal as interim director is to continue building an inclusive environment and expand our center’s reach to the campus community,” Courtney says. “We want to help students find their voices and passions on campus.”
She says the center will offer programs throughout the fall to engage alumni and current students. This past month, the center hosted its first Native American Orientation, where 13 new students were welcomed to campus.
“I plan to work closely with President Nichols, the NAERCC team, faculty and staff, and students in hiring the next director,” Courtney adds.
The NAERCC provides: one-on-one academic, financial aid, personal and cultural guidance; strategies that promote Native American student recruitment and retention; peer mentor support; connections to resources for tutoring, child care and more; cultural events and activities; guidance to balance academic and cultural/spiritual commitments; a computer lab; classroom space to take classes offered by the American Indian Studies Program; space to study; space for Native American student organizations to meet; and an environment that promotes community.