Tribal Colleges and Universities and Achieving the Dream, A Partnership in Resilience

Achieving the Dream’s partnership with 33 tribal colleges and universities (TCUs) began in 2004 and greatly expanded in 2017. It’s been a journey of mutual learning for ATD and for the institutions. ATD has provided support helping TCUs build data capacity and implement evidence-based reforms, and TCUs have taught ATD much about the power of place and the importance of identity in student success and in nation building.

During this time of disruption and uncertainty, ATD continues to learn and innovate together with TCUs  as they scale remote learning and ATD scales virtual coaching. While the immediacy of the challenges are daunting, TCUs are well accustomed to being resourceful and have continued their work in the ATD Network.

In response to a survey offering flexible coaching options for the spring (including delaying coaching to the fall), 81 percent of the 26 TCUs that have responded thus far elected to receive between four  and 12 hours of ATD coaching during this exceptional semester. This indicates a strong commitment to serving students, regardless of the circumstance, and a recognition of how the work achieved to date is connected to what the institution may need to do moving forward. ATD Coaches, as trusted external advisors, are helping TCUs and all ATD Network colleges reflect on what they have learned and changed during the COVID-19 crisis that will transform the college over the short and long term. Similarly, ATD will learn what this new TCU context, more technology-driven than ever, will look like for the student experience. 

From a coaching perspective, it was inspiring to see the speed at which the TCUs responded in closing campuses, checking on students, and moving to online/distance learning. After implementing the plan for the remainder of the semester, the sense of urgency moved to searching for ways to assist students and faculty to adjust to the new learning methods and to engage students who they had not heard from. Some TCUs have decided to cancel the summer term, while looking for assistance to move to online/virtual fall registration and orientation. With all the uncertainty about the impact of the COVID-19 stay-at-home orders on fall enrollment and operations, the TCUs remain strong, value-driven community institutions that support tribal economies as an employer, and as a resource, with many contributing health care supplies and equipment and providing meals from their facilities.

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