A partnership with Boeing will pay for laboratory improvements and offer hands-on environmental research.
The Boeing Co. will spend up to $200,000 over four years for environmental research by students and faculty at Haskell Indian Nations University using pollution data gathered at the company's manufacturing facility in Wichita.
The project is the largest partnership with a private company in Haskell's history and the first to focus on research.
It also may represent a crucial step in Haskell's plan to offer bachelor's degrees in environmental science, said Dan Wildcat, chairman of Haskell's Natural and Social Sciences Department.
"This Boeing grant gives us an opportunity to really pursue development of our labs, providing research experience with corporations that are involved in hands-on environmental research," Wildcat said.
Initially Boeing's Commercial Airplane Group in Wichita will spend $25,000 to upgrade biology, microbiology and chemistry labs at Haskell. Some of the money will be used for summer research internships that will focus on soil and groundwater contamination at Boeing's Wichita factory.
In addition to the Boeing partnership, the Haskell Environmental Research Studies Center expects to receive a $22,000 grant this spring from the private W.K. Kellogg Foundation in Battle Creek, Mich., to pay for a planning retreat to further develop the department's environmental science program.
Haskell, a government funded college for American Indians, primarily offers courses leading to two-year associate degrees. Its first bachelor's degree program, in elementary education, is expected to begin operations in the fall.
In recent years the 800-student school has supplemented its federal allocation of about $10 million a year with several grants and partnerships, most of them with federal agencies.
Once the elementary education program is under way, Haskell officials hope to add bachelor's degree programs in business, environmental science and Indian studies.
"We want to make an integrated Indian studies curriculum the foundation for all of our environmental science degrees," Wildcat said. "We believe that the traditional knowledge and the wisdom of our ancestors fits in perfectly with modern environmental science.
"I'd argue that modern science is just catching up with the knowledge that traditional American Indian peoples had about our relationship to the environment."