Forging Partnerships, Experiential Learning, and Community Impact: Capacity Building Matters

  • J. Foster Sawyer (South Dakota School of Mines and Technology)
  • Joanita M. Kant (South Dakota State University)
  • Jennifer L. Benning (South Dakota School of Mines and Technology)
  • Damon R. Fick (Montana State University - Bozeman)
  • Suzette R. Burckhard (South Dakota State University)


Capacity building can be an important step in working to help more Native American engineering students to earn degrees. Funding agencies often look first at numbers of students who succeed at matriculation. We make the case that a broader view of success in the early years of program development with tribal college pre-engineering partner schools may include capacity building. If continued funding of such initiatives is withheld because of quantitative assessment alone, coalitions with tribal colleges may not reach their true potential because capacity building is often crucial, and it takes time. In this paper, one co-author interviewed the other three co-authors, using a predetermined questionnaire. Thus, while all the authors are the researchers, three of the co-authors are the research subjects. All are PhD engineers and scientists. In the resulting essays, the interviewees expressed their opinions about capacity building in their roles in an NSF-sponsored pre-engineering alliance between two mainline universities and a tribally controlled college. Those interviewed describe their unique qualifications to assess capacity building in this instance. From the perspective of one of the mainline universities in the alliance, they address categories of capacity building at the following levels: the tribal college; the two participating mainline universities; the reservation hosting the summer camp; student and faculty participants; tribal, State, and Federal agencies; and STEM disciplines in general. We present common themes in all three essays that reportedly encouraged capacity building, including: (1) coalition-building, (2) engaging in experiential learning, and (3) emphasizing improving the quality of life on Pine Ridge Reservation. We present secondary themes and non-consensus opinions as additional support for the merits of qualitative assessment.

How to Cite:

Sawyer, J. F. & Kant, J. M. & Benning, J. L. & Fick, D. R. & Burckhard, S. R., (2014) “Forging Partnerships, Experiential Learning, and Community Impact: Capacity Building Matters”, 2014 ASEE North Midwest Section Conference 2014(1), 1-15. doi: https://doi.org/10.17077/aseenmw2014.1015

Rights: Copyright © 2014, J. Foster Sawyer, Joanita M. Kant, Jennifer L. Benning, Damon R. Fick and Suzette Burckhard

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Published on
17 Oct 2014
Peer Reviewed