Long recognized as one of the nation’s foremost institutions serving Indigenous students, Northern Arizona University (NAU) has been awarded a transformational $5 million grant from the Mellon Foundation, matched by an additional $5 million investment from the Northern Arizona University Foundation (NAUF), to develop and implement the Seven Generations Signature Initiative (7GSI) over the next three years and advance success for Indigenous students.  

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7GSI is composed of a portfolio of initiatives that will build on existing areas of excellence and elevate NAU’s impact as one of the nation’s leading universities serving Indigenous Peoples. The initiatives in 7GSI include the following:

Elevating Indigenous scholarship

  • Indigenous Peoples Open Educational Resources (OER) development: NAU’s faculty and national experts will lead the development of a catalogue of Indigenous Peoples-focused courses in a wide range of disciplines that will be accessible to universities and students throughout the country.
  • Faculty recruitment and development focused on the scholarship of Indigenous Peoples: NAU will launch an intentional program of early- and mid-career faculty recruitment efforts, with the goal of strengthening and developing the university’s community of scholars whose work focuses on Indigenous perspectives and knowledges across academic disciplines.

Strengthening partnerships

  • Seven Generations Indigenous Knowledge Center (7Gen Center): A new hub on campus will bring together Indigenous knowledge holders, partners, artists and tribal leaders whose diverse perspectives will enrich and add depth to pedagogy, scholarship and artistic endeavors.

Propelling Indigenous student success

  • Indigenous Peoples Living-Learning Community (IPLLC): NAU will serve 150-plus students through an expansion of the IPLLC, cultivating a sense of belonging, building cultural connections and supporting academic success of Indigenous students at NAU.

NAU President José Luis Cruz Rivera reflected on this major gift and the lasting impact it will have on the university and Indigenous Peoples.

“The breadth of this $10 million Seven Generations Signature Initiative demonstrates how NAU has infused its commitment to Indigenous Peoples into all our work, from leading scholarship and meaningful engagement to student belonging and success,” he said. “I am thankful for the support and investment from the Mellon Foundation and the NAU Foundation in making this possible and look forward to the exceptional contributions NAU will make toward delivering on our commitment to be the nation’s leading institution serving Indigenous Peoples.”

The 7GSI proposal was inspired by NAU’s commitment to Indigenous Peoples, which is articulated in NAU’s strategic plan, NAU 2025 – Elevating Excellence:

 In recognition of the unique sovereign status of Native Nations and the sacred land on which the university was built, NAU will continue its intentional support for Indigenous students, faculty and staff; develop university-wide culturally responsive educational opportunities and programming and build mutually beneficial partnerships with Indigenous communities that will position NAU as the nation’s leading university serving Indigenous Peoples.

Ann Marie Chischilly, vice president for Native American Initiatives at NAU, shared her excitement as this work gets underway: “Over the next three years, thanks to the support of our partners at the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and the NAU Foundation, NAU will launch exceptional programs and initiatives that amplify Indigenous voices and perspectives and contribute to student success. I’m excited to be a part of these efforts that will deliver on the university’s commitment to Indigenous Peoples and serve as a model for others throughout the country.” 

Coupled with the university’s recently announced expansion of the Access2Excellence tuition commitment for members of Arizona’s 22 federally recognized tribes, NAU is ensuring an affordable, enriching and excellent academic experience for all Indigenous students.

“NAU’s new and comprehensive initiatives to begin indigenizing curricula across the board as well as to expand its faculty who can teach Native topics is bold, inspiring, and necessary,” said Armando Bengochea, senior program officer for higher learning at Mellon. “It is an institution increasingly primed for making great impacts on Native communities and Native knowledge.”

“NAU is doing incredible work to truly be a home-away-from-home for Indigenous students in Arizona and beyond,” said Lena Fowler, chair of Northern Arizona University’s Native American Advisory Board. “With the Seven Generations Signature Initiative, that work is being elevated. I know more Indigenous students will see the welcoming and supportive environment at NAU as the place to pursue their dreams of higher education.”

“The NAU Foundation Board is thrilled to support the Seven Generations Signature Initiative at NAU,” said Dave Franke, chair of the institutionally affiliated board of directors. “We are inspired by President Cruz Rivera’s clear vision for NAU that builds on the university’s historic strengths, including its longstanding support of Indigenous communities and students, and the Foundation Board is proud to strategically utilize our prudent investments to amplify the impact of the Mellon Foundation’s contribution and power this important initiative that will positively impact so many students and scholars at NAU.” 

The work of the Seven Generations Signature Initiative (7GSI) will begin spring 2023 at NAU.