Pease started a new job last month at Rocky Mountain College,
but she is no stranger to the campus.
On July 1, Pease
became Rocky's vice president for Native American Affairs, a new
position created by college President Thomas Oates.
The position is
among the first of its kind at a non-tribal college in the region.
Pease knows her
way around Rocky, having served on the college's national advisory
board. Rocky gave her an honorary doctorate degree in 1998.
She also has been
on the Montana Science and Technology Consortium Board of Advisors,
which includes Rocky Mountain College and six of seven Montana tribal
colleges. The consortium works to expand opportunities for American
Indian college students majoring in mathematics, science and technology.
Pease's father and
uncle have degrees from Rocky, and her grandfather attended Rocky's
predecessor, Billings Polytechnic Institute.
Her own deep family
ties to the college may be one reason she feels treating Rocky's
Native American students as part of an extended family will encourage
them to stay until graduation.
Retention of current
students and increasing the number of new Native American students
at Rocky are part of Pease's new job.
Last year, about
60 Native Americans attended Rocky. That number includes students
working on Rocky degrees through distance-learning programs at tribal
colleges and Rocky's degree-completion program.
are the largest group of minority students at Rocky, which has a
total enrollment of about 800 students.
While the exact
responsibilities of her new job still are developing, Oates has
talked with Pease about some changes he'd like to see on campus
to benefit Native American students.
has a wonderful sense of vision for American Indian students at
Rocky," she said.
Rocky already has
a lot to offer Native American students, including small classes,
approachable faculty and fields of study that fit well with students
transferring from tribal colleges, such as education, natural-resources
management and information technology.
students can become interns with federal agencies, such as the U.S.
Department of Energy at its Los Alamos and Sandia labs in New Mexico.
"It's a tremendous
opportunity for students to work at the elbow of a doctoral scientist,"
Still, more can
be done to encourage Native Americans to come to Rocky.
Pease will be looking
at the curriculum to see how courses can be made more relevant to
A Native American
student majoring in economics, for example, could learn about tribal
Pease also will
look at student services that encourage or discourage Native American
students from continuing their education at Rocky.
Because Native American
students tend to be older than other Rocky students and many have
families, student activities designed for 18-year-olds don't attract
Pease would like
to see more events that welcome families and spouses, such as potluck
dinners followed by discussions of issues with tribal leaders.
At the same time,
Oates wants Native American students to join the full range of campus
offerings from outdoor activities to study in foreign countries.
As important as
it is improve programs that benefit Native American students, having
them on campus benefits Rocky, too.
Most Rocky students
come from communities with few or no minorities. Increasing the
number of Native American and foreign students helps all students
learn how to live in a diverse society, Pease said.
She also will teach
a class in Native American studies.
"That's a thrill,"
Pease has bachelor's
degrees in both anthropology and sociology from Central Washington
University and a master's degree and a Ph.D. in adult and higher
education from Montana State University.
She was the founding
president of Little Big Horn College on the Crow Reservation from
1982 to 2001.
Pease left following
a lengthy battle with tribal officials who asserted control over
Since then, she
has worked as a consultant in her own firm, which specialized in
program development, educational research and strategic planning
for tribal colleges and universities as well as for the American
Indian College Fund and the American Indian Higher Education Consortium.