UNM community and regional planning professor part of indigenous-based research project

Dr. Lani Tsinnajinnie, an assistant professor of Community and Regional Planning at the UNM School of Architecture, Water, and Natural Resources, will serve as Co-PI on an NSF project to research indigenous-based STEM education. The work will be in collaboration with CIRCLES Alliance (Cultivating Indigenous Research Communities for Leadership in Education and STEM). 


The project is part of a large collaboration of CIRCLES Alliance that includes teams from Montana, Idaho, Wyoming, North Dakota, South Dakota, and New Mexico, including the University of New Mexico, New Mexico EPSCoR (Established Program to Stimulate Competitive Research), and partner institutions.


“The goal of our alliance is to increase participation of Alaska Native and Native Americans in STEM disciplines,” Tsinnajinnie said. “Our NM team is focused on engaging with educators and community members from tribal communities in NM to better understand their perspectives of STEM education and to also understand cyberinfrastructure needs of the communities.”


Some 8,095 students at UNM registered in STEM fields in fall 2019, compared to 8,625 in fall 2018. Of those, 446 identified as Native students in fall 2019, compared to 488 the previous fall, according to data obtained from Tim Schroeder, director of UNM’s STEM Collaborative Center.


The National Science Foundation has awarded researchers $739,619 in research grants for one year to address this under representation, but they will apply to NSF INCLUDES grant to continue with the project.


Tsinnajinnie will serve as Co-PI alongside Dr. Selena Connealy, new Interim Associate Director for New Mexico EPSCoR, and other teams “to develop a collaboration plan that will guide us in how we will work with other institutions and tribal communities in this project,” she said.


She will also supervise a post-doctoral researcher who will help organize and develop the project’s engagement activities.


To better understand STEM education and cyberinfrastructure needs, the project team hopes to create partnerships with tribal communities and educational institutions. The goal is to find a way to support STEM learning and career pathways for Native students.


“This project is important to me because I know the value that Native communities can bring to STEM fields and I also know the challenges of being a Native student in STEM. I hope that this project will help future Native students to have more enjoyable and welcoming experiences in STEM,” Tsinnajinnie said.