Puyallup chairman joins UWT Advisory Board

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Puyallup Tribal Chairman Bill Sterud has accepted an invitation to join the University of Washington-Tacoma Advisory Board. Taking a seat at the table with a wide range of civic and business leaders from around the city, Sterud will help the 25-member board in its varied work to help UWT be all that it can be in conjunction with the leadership of the Board of Regents for the whole University of Washington system.

The chairman said he is honored to bring the Puyallup Tribe’s partnership with UWT to a new level.

“I totally emphasize education,” he said as a longtime education advocate. “And with UWT being on the Puyallup reservation, it just makes sense. Anything I can do to help our tribal members in their education, I’ll do it.”

UWT Chancellor Mark Pagano said he has wanted Sterud on the board for quite some time, and everything just fell into place when the time was right.

“I’m just really pleased that Bill is on the board now. I’ve known him since I’ve been on campus and I’ve really been excited about recruiting him and now he’s here in person,” Pagano said.

Sterud is the most recent new member of the board, which meets every quarter to talk about developments at UWT including any legislative issues happening in Olympia that could affect the university. The board is made up of a wide range of leadership, including Pierce County Executive Bruce Dammeier and Tacoma Mayor Marilyn Strickland, along with representation from Port of Tacoma, Tacoma Public Schools, MultiCare Health Systems, and more.

“It was really a missing link not to have our American Indian community represented, especially our local community,” Pagano said. “Ever since I’ve been here I’ve learned all about Tacoma and its history and the Puyallup Tribe was here before Tacoma was.” Pagano said having the Puyallup Tribe so closely involved with UWT helps the university more truly reflect its place on Puyallup reservation lands.

Chairman Sterud and the Puyallup Tribe have been staunch supporters of UWT since its beginning. For example, every year Sterud attends Convocation in the fall to give the opening welcome prayer and share words of encouragement. “He blesses all the students and faculty for the coming year and it seems like the person who does that should be on our Advisory Board. He’s got some ‘skin in the game,’ so to speak,” Pagano said. “If he is willing to come over and bless our students’ success, he should be part of that.”

The Tribe has also supported UWT financially. A generous grant of $275,000 made in 2014 has helped UWT infuse Native American ways of knowing into teaching, learning and research.

“The Tribe’s significant gift to UWT was originally directed at more environmental issues but now we’ve renegotiated the gift and widened it so that it includes everything we do academically…to put a tribal perspective to science, culture or whatever it is being taught,” Pagano said. An advisory group called BEST, or Building Excellence Through Science and Tradition, advises this effort and includes input from tribal leaders up and down the Washington coast.

In addition, two UWT assistant professors, Danica Sterud Miller (Puyallup Tribe) and Michelle Montgomery (Haliwa Saponi/Eastern Band Cherokee), have been spearheading UWT’s move to bring more of a Native American focus on campus. This includes helping to organize learning opportunities for the Puyallup Tribe’s indigenous language, Lushootseed, as UWT has hosted the popular Lushootseed Language Institute for the past two years in a row, presented by the Puyallup Tribe’s Language Department.

This coming Nov. 13, UWT will host the eighth annual Native American Indigenous Education Symposium, 9 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. The morning keynote speaker will be Dr. Megan Bang (Ojibwe) speaking on “Indigenizing Education through Land/Community/Water.” The afternoon keynote speaker will be Nicole Sutton (Puyallup) speaking on the “Since Time Immemorial” curriculum adopted by middle and high schools across the state. For student guests, there will be tours of UWT, college admissions advice, and an Indigenous student panel (both past and present) offering their college experiences. The symposium is free to attend, but registration is kindly requested at catalyst.uw.edu/webq/survey/mailon/341549.

Chancellor Pagano is excited about a new partnership in Indigenous studies being offered at UWT to host cohorts of Washington state tribal students who are working on a Ph.D. in Indigenous studies at the Te Whare Wānanga o Awanuiārangi in Whakatāne, New Zealand. “This institution is the world’s only Mauri university and happens to share many of our same values we have at UW-Tacoma,” Pagano wrote in his UWT blog, Oct. 11.

While the partnership is in the early stages, five delegates from UWT traveled to the Te Whare Wānanga o Awanuiārangi campus this past February and officials from their school were here in early October. “Several of our faculty met with them about engaging in joint research, faculty exchanges, and possibly organizing a study abroad,” Pagano wrote. “In the meantime, we have worked out the arrangements to host their Ph.D. students on our campus four times a year for four days each time while one of their professors comes from New Zealand to conduct some of their course work here in the Pacific Northwest. Since most of the current students are from Washington tribes — the one student from the Warm Springs tribe in Oregon actually lives in Washington — this saves considerable travel time for the cohort to not travel abroad. A trip to the New Zealand campus only occurs one time per year.

“The first time we expect these students on our campus is in February 2018.”

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