A year ago, Marigold Linton thought she could double the number of American Indian students at Kansas University go from about 150 to 300 within five years.
It looks like she'll make it.
"Lots of exciting things are happening," said Linton, director of American Indian Outreach within the provost's office at KU.
For starters, the initial $6 million outlay from the National Institutes of Health has grown to $10 million in grants aimed at lowering cultural and academic barriers that prevent many American Indian students from pursuing science careers.
Together, KU and Haskell Indian Nations University want to make Lawrence a nationally recognized center for American Indian students interested in the sciences.
"Whenever an American Indian thinks 'I want to study science,' we want them to think Haskell, KU and Lawrence," said Linton, a member of the Cahuilla tribe who grew up on the Morongo Reservation in Southern California.
To make that happen and to eventually steer more American Indian students toward KU Linton's office is working with Haskell on a five-part program called RISE, which stands for Research Initiative for Scientific Enhancement.
Based at Haskell, RISE helps students identify deficiencies in math and English.
"The idea is give students the opportunity to figure out where they are, let them fill in the gaps so they can move forward. It's a very fast-track approach," said Claude Laird, director of the RISE program at Haskell.
Last semester, roughly 100 Haskell students went through RISE, even though funding didn't arrive until February and the program didn't get underway until March.
"We're expecting a lot more in the fall," said Laird, a former physics professor at KU.
Once students are informed, they're introduced to research opportunities in the bio-sciences at KU. Those who are interested are matched with mentors at KU.
Last semester, four HINU students took part in lab projects at KU. Come fall, Laird is hoping for 20.
The students are paid.
"It's part of the grant, which makes it a win-win situation," Laird said. "The students get paid more than they would at most jobs, and (their pay) doesn't have to come out of the project's budget."
RISE also has money set aside to help Haskell faculty members earn advanced degrees, usually at KU.
"The idea is that these faculty will gain knowledge and bring it back to Haskell," Laird said.
This semester, two HINU instructors are taking graduate-level course at KU one in hopes of earning a master's degree in mathematics, the other a doctorate in mathematics education.
Besides these enhancements, RISE is helping Haskell develop a science curriculum that, Laird said, will be "more readily transferable to other four-year institutions."
"At most universities, introductory biology is a two-semester program," he said. "Here it's one, so when a student wants to go to the next level to KU, for example their credits may not transfer. That needs to change."
Outside the classroom, RISE is helping Haskell build the on-campus infrastructure it needs to seek and carry out bio-medical research projects.
"All this in six months? That's not bad," Linton said. "But the real bottom line to all this is there's a remarkable accord between the two institutions. There's a lot of creativity going on, it's exciting."
Currently, Haskell offers four-year degrees in American Indian studies, business administration, teacher education and environmental science. Through RISE, Haskell students can attend classes at KU and remain affiliated with Haskell.