Indian Resource Development program moves to NMSU College of Business

May 20, 2014 by Amanda Bradford, NMSU News Center

A state program that promotes higher education and economic development opportunities for Native American students will now be housed in the New Mexico State University College of Business in order to strengthen its emphasis on applied research that benefits tribal communities throughout New Mexico.

The Indian Resource Development program is a statewide program located at NMSU, and until this month, operated as a Student Diversity and Outreach program, along with the American Indian, Black Studies and Chicano programs. Reorganizing the Indian Resource Development program to position it within the business college will allow it to make a greater impact on student success and tribal economies in the state, said the program’s newly appointed interim director, Gavin Clarkson, an associate professor of finance and member of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma.

“The best place for this program is within a college, where it can be attached to an academic research unit,” said Clarkson, a product of the Harvard Project on American Indian Economic Development and the first American Indian to graduate from the doctoral program at the Harvard Business School. “By pulling it into the College of Business, we’ll dramatically increase IRD’s emphasis on applied research that’s directly relevant to tribal communities.”

The IRD program began in 1977, when NMSU was awarded a W.K. Kellogg Foundation grant to encourage Navajo students to pursue degrees in agriculture and business. Before the grant expired, the New Mexico Legislature enacted a statute to continue, expand and fund the program. IRD provides opportunities and experiences that help tribal students become professionals in business, agriculture, science, engineering and resource management.

“IRD’s origins are in natural resources and agriculture – clearly, those are things for which New Mexico State has core competencies and high degree of excellence,” Clarkson said. “I am not aware of any other business school in the country that has an active Indian Country research agenda. We now have a program specifically focused on engaging in research with tribal communities and connecting academic scholars with tribal leaders to try to deal with issues that tribal leaders are concerned about.”

Interim Dean Kathy Brook said the College of Business has long had an interest in building relationships with tribal leaders, and has been working to develop a tribal management program. Business professors Grace Ann Rosile and David Boje have been working with Don Pepion, associate professor of anthropology and a member of the Blackfeet tribe, and Joe Gladstone, assistant professor of public health administration and member of the Blackfeet and Nez Perce tribes, to explore the commonalities between business ethics and tribal wisdom through the Daniels Fund Ethics Initiative.

“The move of Indian Resource Development provides a welcome opportunity for the College of Business – and NMSU generally – to strengthen existing relationships with the tribes and pueblos in the state,” Brook said.

“Moving IRD into the business school just gives us that much more ability to emphasize and demonstrate to Indian Country how much creating self-sustaining tribal economies really does matter to the business school,” Clarkson said. “The university has as its mission to create and foster self-sustaining economies throughout the state, and that includes tribal economies.”

Clarkson said nationally, roughly 95 percent of tribal chief financial officers are not Native Americans. One goal of the program will be to help steer more students into business fields so tribes can look within their own communities to manage their financial resources, as well as their natural resources.

Fostering entrepreneurship among Native students is another objective of the program.

“Part of our emphasis on applied research into creating self-sustaining tribal economies is because we do have so many Native students who would love to go back, if the opportunities are there,” Clarkson said. “One of the biggest problems of tribal economies is economic leakage. Money just leaves the reservation and it never comes back, because there’s clearly a demand for consumption of goods and services on reservations, but there are few on-reservation providers of those goods and services. We not only want to train Native CFOs, we want to inspire and foster Native entrepreneurs.”

He said he hopes that IRD will be able to connect Arrowhead Center and its business incubation services and entrepreneurial support services with the tribal communities, and also with Native students at NMSU who can then take those entrepreneurial ideas back to their home communities.

Clarkson said he’ll also focus on strengthening ties with other universities and tribal colleges in the state. Recently, he collaborated with Southwestern Indian Polytechnic Institute, tribal college located in Albuquerque, to secure a $783,000 NASA grant that will be focused on educating Native youth in science and engineering, using technology developed at NMSU.

One of the first events hosted by the restructured Indian Resource Development program and co-hosted by the College of Business will be a retrospective symposium Nov. 13 and 14 – during Native American Heritage Month – that will mark the 30th anniversary of the Presidential Commission on Indian Reservation Economies, established during the Reagan administration to advise the president on ways to promote economic development on federally recognized Indian reservations.

Clarkson said the program’s long-term goal is to have a positive economic impact on tribes across the state.

“The thing that we want to be measured by, years down the road, is how have we helped contribute to the development of self-sustaining tribal economies?” he said. “How have we helped contribute to the increase in human capital available to tribal communities in New Mexico?”

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