Native American fellowship nears end of selection process

Media Credit: Olivia Anderson | Hatchet Photographer

Gregory Lebel, the director of the Native American Political Leadership Program, said 10 students applied for the first year of a fellowship for Native American students.

GW is entering the final stages of bringing a new group of students to campus.

Ten students applied for the first year of a fellowship for Native American students, the director of the program confirmed last week. He said the students will get hands-on experience from D.C. internships during the fellowship.

The program covers the cost of nine credits worth of courses, housing and transportation, Gregory Lebel, the director of the Native American Political Leadership Program, said. The students will live and take classes on campus.

“This would give them a chance to kind of sit down and dig into what the issues are and how the issues are dealt with here in Washington,” Lebel said.

Starting next semester, a partnership between GW and the Native American tribe Agua Caliente, band of the Cahuilla Indians, will offer a fellowship to Native American students participating in a Native American leadership program. The program aims to give Native American, Alaska Native and Native Hawaiian students the opportunity to immerse themselves in the political sphere of D.C.

The fellowship, which was created to honor the former tribal chief of the Agua Caliente tribe, Richard Milanovic, is funded by Agua Caliente, a Southern California tribe. Students in federally recognized tribes from California will get preference over other Native American tribes, though students from all tribes are allowed to apply.

Lebel said the fellowship received few applications because this is the first year of the program, and expects the University to receive more applications in future years.

As participants in the Native American Leadership program, fellows will take three three-credit classes at GW while interning part time for organizations like the National Congress of American Indians or the U.S. Senate. After their acceptance to the program, the fellows will work with GW to secure part-time internships.

The University currently has 55 Native American undergraduate and graduate students, a number that has declined by about 63 percent since 2009, when it reached 147. The fellowship is open both to graduate and undergraduate students.

Lebel said the fellows will also stay at GW for a week at the end of April for “a series of one-on-one meetings with key Native decision makers and advocates in Washington.”

Lebel added that the fellows will likely meet with Native American members of Congress or their staff, as well as members of the National Indian Education Association and other leaders and advocacy organizations.

Brian Barlow, a senior majoring in political science and president of the Native American Student Association, said the fellowship can give students, who otherwise might not want to spend time in D.C. working with the agencies that govern Native American territories in the U.S., a chance to see how decisions are made.

Barlow, a member of a Cherokee tribe based in Oklahoma, added that students in the fellowship program will get access to internship opportunities ahead of students who aren’t in the program.

“It’s really cool that GW does do the program because it brings in students for a semester, which is sometimes at the commitment level of Native students,” he said. “As far as leaving the community, it can be much more appealing not having to leave for an extended period of time, and it gives substantial opportunities.”

Ryan Lasker contributed reporting.

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