BROOKINGS, S.D.- The American Indian Student Center (AISC) focuses on welcoming and supporting Native students as they begin and work through their college degrees. Resources and activities for students promote inclusivity and academic success.
“So when our students arrive on campus, we are first and foremost a home away from home,” says Director of American Indian Student Center Stephanie Johnson. “And so, whatever that means to students, we do try and provide academic resources, social resources, cultural resources.”
Plus, students on campus that don’t come from indigenous backgrounds are able to learn about the cultures of their classmates. “You know, the state we live in, 10% of the population is indigenous, Native American, American Indian, and so we want that represented here on campus. We’re not there quite yet with our numbers but we very much welcome all students, all faculty to come in, and we’re a very inclusive building and space. The opportunities that we offer are for all, you know, for any student who wants to participate, for any faculty member, for any staff member. We invite those individuals in,” Johnson says.
Cante Skuya Lonehill grew up in Pine Ridge and decided to pursue animal science at SDSU. “Ultimately, I’ve always had this sort of connection with animals ever since I was younger. They’ve kind of always been there, and on my reservation, it’s a really big problem with people not having the money or the resources to take their animals to the nearest veterinary clinic, which is like 45 minutes outside of town. So I guess just growing up in the environment I grew up in it made me really want to give back to my community.”
She says that the AISC has helped her find a new community far from home. “I think one major thing that I enjoy is coming here and seeing all of the different people that come here and like spending time with them, because when you come here, you see a lot of the same people, but you also see a lot of different people. So it’s just kind of like the community.”
Skuya Lonehill adds that the events are all fun bonding experiences, too. “We all come here and we all gather and do different things, and it’s just kind of an opportunity for all of us to get together and meet one another and know who our community is,” she says.
More information on the American Indian Student Center can be found here.