Cultural Engagement Center

Native American Mentors Speak at Panel Discussion

Seven Native American professionals discussed issues facing Native American students Monday, May 13, 2019, in the Cultural Engagement Center at Northern Oklahoma College in Tonkawa.

The program is a part of the Natives Guiding Natives grant from the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education (WICHE) and the Lumina Foundation.

The panel discussion included Sara Bell, Youth Pastor/Business Owner from Ponca City; Dani DeRoin, Records Administrator for the Otoe-Missouria Tribal Education Department; Sarah Nelson, Ponca Tribe of Oklahoma Education and Training Director; Dillon Moore, Table Games Supervisor; James Bible, Slots Manager for 7 Clans Casino; Lisa Bible, Tribal Education Advocate for Frontier Public Schools; and Kelli Dollarhide, Ponca City United Way Volunteer.

Topics ranged from the most influential people in the panel’s lives, challenges they faced as students, their accomplishments, advice for Native American students, and what colleges can do to assist Native American students.

Regarding ways that colleges and universities can assist Native American students is to be more involved with the students.

“Get to know the students better,” said Moore. “Building those relationships is so important.”

“This facility (Cultural Education Center) is an awesome place,” Bell said. “There needs to be more places for students to come for assistance and to feel more comfortable on campus. Also, have more Native American instructors.”

James Bible agreed.  “Native Americans need to have a place where they feel more comfortable,” he said.

“I think it’s important for NOC faculty and staff to help students navigate their issues and provide help,” said Dollarhide. “To answer a couple questions and let them know where to get help is so important.”

What advice do they have for students?

“Don’t give up,” Nelson said. “There are always going to be challenges, issues are always going to come up. Stay the course.”

Lisa Bible said an important factor is to take care of yourself mentally and physically.

“Take care of the inner self as well as the physical body,” she said. “You have to be strong mentally to handle school, work, and all the issues that come up. Health is so important.”

Don’t procrastinate,” said DeRoin. “Stay on top of things so that the stress doesn’t become overwhelming. Learn to manage things as they come up and not wait until the last minute.”

“Get out of your comfort zone,” James Bible said. “Raise your hand in class, sit toward the front, and get involved in class discussions.”

“Find a mentor,” Moore said. “Find people that have been there before and learn from them. Use their experiences to help you at school.

“Be good to people,” Bell said. “Opportunities have come my way because I was good to people.”

What challenges did the panel face as a college student?

“Being a mother and trying to go to school was a huge challenge,” said Lisa Bible. “Fortunately, my family was a huge help.”

“I was also a single mother,” said Nelson. “I had a family and a job. I quit once, then went to the University Center in Ponca City but I stayed with it. I am so proud of the CEC here at NOC where students can get assistance.”

Moore said his study habits were poor.
“I went from a small high school then to OSU and that was tough,” he said. “I was totally lost at a big school. I couldn’t find the balance between school and other things. It took a while for me to find the help I needed and at that same time to organize myself where I could succeed.”

Who was the most influential person in your life?

 “Family, for sure,” said Dollarhide. “I had so much support from my family and from NOC. It’s so important to get that support."

NOC Mentoring Program Connects Native American Students with Professionals

Sasha Gibson and Charlene Le have never met, but they have a close relationship.

Le mentors Gibson, an Osage student at Northern Oklahoma College. The mentorship program is part of NOC’s Native American Serving, Non-Tribal Institution grant.

The mentorship program was developed to connect Native American students with Native professionals who have been successful in college. The mentors have been trained in culturally-responsive strategies to engage Native American students. The goal is to increase retention and graduation rates of Native American students.

NOC partnered with six area tribes— Kaw, Osage, Otoe-Missouria, Pawnee, Ponca, and Tonkawa—in response to meeting the needs of Native students. Last school year, over 65 percent of Native freshmen received coaching and mentoring.

Gibson said, “Charlene communicates by calling me most of the time, but periodically sends me a text.” Charlene makes sure Sasha is succeeding academically and offers suggestions of places to get assistance if she is not doing well.

Gibson does not need the academic assistance. She was the 2017 valedictorian of Woodland High School and has done well at NOC. She added, “NOC faculty has treated me with nothing but respect and kindness.”

Gibson continued, “Charlene encourages me to try my hardest, do my best, and stay on the straight and narrow. She genuinely cares if I do well in class and in life in general. She is very kind and helpful!”

Le, who is Osage, Pawnee, Kiowa, and Euchee, believes her main goal as a mentor is to be a trusted advisor and keep her mentee’s best interests in mind. She makes herself available to support and advise her group of 20 Native students when they need it, delivering support in a way that makes sense to the student.

Le says Gibson is special because, “Sasha strives at being the best student she can be. I really admire that about her. Not all students have that drive to complete their education and maintain good grades.”

“I enjoy encouraging Native American youth in becoming successful in college. Being open to sharing my mistakes, failures, and accomplishments is one of the biggest gifts I can give as a mentor. Not only is it helpful but it builds trust, gives them permission to share their own mistakes and accomplishments as well, which strengthens the mentoring relationship overall,” added Le.

Gibson is a Criminal Justice major who plans to transfer to Oklahoma State and major in Human Sciences. Le believes Gibson will be successful. “Sasha is a smart young lady who will go far in her career due to her determination to be successful,” bragged Le.

Le is one of ten Native American mentors who work with over 400 Native American students on three NOC campuses—Tonkawa, Enid, and Stillwater.

Le lives in Tulsa and works for the Gatesway Foundation, a non-profit that encourages independence and provides opportunities for people with intellectual disabilities.

Sasha is the daughter of Irene Gibson and Todd Gibson of Fairfax.

NOC Students Attend Career Fair

Over 75 Northern Oklahoma College students attended a College and Career Day Wednesday at the Cultural Engagement Center April 3.

Twenty exhibitors attended the event, said NANTI Project Director Rae Ann Kruse.

The participants included Blackwell Police, Continental Carbon, Johnson Controls, Kaw Nation Domestic Violence, Kay County Sheriff’s Office, Northwestern Oklahoma State University, OG&E, Oklahoma City Police, Oklahoma State University, Ponca City Police Department, Seven Clans Casino, Tonkawa Casino, and University of Central Oklahoma.

Criminal Justice instructor Troy Cochran, Process Technology Director Dr. Frankie Wood-Black, and Digital Media Instructor Brad Matson brought their students to the event.

Students viewed the “Wall of Jobs,” a listing of dozens of job postings for area full-time, part-time, and summer positions for student employment.

Ashley Kirven-Bobier, OSU Transfer Coordinator, connected with Dr. Rick Edgington to establish monthly office hours to assist NOC students who wish to transition to Oklahoma State.

OG&E Talent Acquisition Lead, Charles Frank, offered to come back, provide lunch and discuss with NOC Pre-Engineering students the 30 paid summer internships that OG&E has available. Internships range from information technology to engineering and telecommunications.

Dr. Kruse, NASNTI Project Director, said, “The Career and College Fair was a great opportunity for our students who are going directly to the workforce to meet area employers. For our students who are continuing their education, we were very appreciative to have representatives from state universities attend and discuss next steps with our students. I was thrilled with the partnerships that were developed.”

The event was a NASNTI activity to support the college’s grant initiatives to improve career and transfer services for students.

NOC Students Attend Ponca Tribal Access Site

Three Northern Oklahoma College students are attending class via interactive television (ITV) at the Ponca Tribal Access Center. The Ponca tribal members are Reagan Cole, Megan Merritt, and William Rhodd.

Reagan Cole works for the Ponca Tribe Education and Training Department and is completing her Associate Degree in Education. After graduation, she plans to attend Oklahoma State University and major in secondary education.

Cole is taking one ITV course and four online courses. She described taking classes at the Ponca access site by saying, “To me, the ITV/online courses feel more flexible than the traditional in-class courses. Because I work full-time, I can't afford to miss too many hours being on campus in Tonkawa. The ITV site is right down the road from me, and I still get the benefit of being part of instructor-led discussions.”

Cole continued, “The majority of my schedule this semester is online, which is also nice because I can set my own schedule for when I want to access NOC courses. If not for the opportunity to take classes locally, I would not be in the position to work toward my degree at NOC Tonkawa.”

Megan Merritt is a freshman majoring in Business Administration. She was a 2018 graduate of Ponca City High School. This is her first semester to take classes at the Ponca tribal access site.

William Rhodd is the experienced member of the group. This is his second semester to take classes via ITV and online at the Ponca access site. Rhodd is a freshman majoring in Computer Science and is unsure if he will go straight to work after obtaining his associate degree or continue his education.

Rhodd is enjoying this semester because, “my class lectures are recorded which makes it easier for me to take notes.”

The Ponca access site is funded by NOC’s Title III Native American Serving Non-Tribal Institute (NASNTI) grant. Each access site is equipped with three computers, an ITV screen, plus a video camera.

Grant Director, Dr. Rae Ann Kruse said, “Six area tribes worked closely with NOC to recommend ways to improve Native American student retention and graduation rates.”

The tribes suggested transportation to the Tonkawa campus, but the grant was not able to fund travel costs. As an alternative, access sites were developed at six area tribal educational centers. ITV classes allow students and teachers to interact in real time and see each other through video cameras located in the classrooms.

Gina Conneywerdy serves as the NOC Native American student advisor. She commented, “Through the NASNTI grant, NOC is able to provide personalized academic services for Ponca students.”

Kruse added, “In addition to the access sites, the NASNTI grant is providing other academic services.” Last school year, one of ten Native American mentors contacted all Native American freshmen students to provide guidance and encouragement. Over 66 percent of the Native American freshmen took advantage of academic mentoring.

This school year, the Native American mentors are focusing on NA students who might need extra academic support. The mentors are working professionals from several different tribes and usually contact the students via email, text messages, and phone calls.

Photo L-R: William Rhodd, Reagan Cole, and Megan Merritt wrap up their American History class. The NOC students are taking online and ITV classes at the Ponca Access Site.

NOC Enrolls Students at Kaw Nation

Kaw Nation Onsite EnrollmentNorthern Oklahoma College conducted an on-site enrollment event at the Kaw Nation education center on January 11, 2019. NOC students dropped by and enrolled for the 2019 spring and summer semesters.

Gina Conneywerdy, NOC’s Native American Recruiter and Advisor, met with Kaw Nation tribal members to provided assistance with financial aid, tribal funding, bursar questions, and course enrollment.

The on-site enrollment event was part of the services provided by NOC’s Title III NASNTI grant. Additional members of the enrollment team were Dr. Rae Ann Kruse, NASNTI Grant Project Director; Anna Scott, Distance Learning Specialist; and Karen Howe, Kaw Tribal Education Director.

Conneywerdy said, “Through the NASNTI grant, we are able to provide more personalized student services for Kaw students.”

NOC worked with the Tribe to create an educational access site in the Johnnie Ray McCauley Multipurpose Center where students can use NOC computers to take online classes or connect to ITV courses.

NOC is currently enrolling for the 2019 summer semester and fall enrollment will begin after spring break. Four sessions of summer school run from May 18 to August 1. Fall 2019 classes are projected to begin August 19, 2019.

Northern Oklahoma College, the state’s oldest community college, is a multi-campus, land-grant institution that provides high quality, accessible, and affordable educational opportunities and services which create life-changing experiences and develop students as effective learners and leaders within their communities in a connected, ever changing world.

Serving nearly 5,000 students, NOC is a public, two-year community college with locations in Tonkawa, Enid and Stillwater. The college is accredited by the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools and offers associate degrees in three general areas: Arts, Science and Applied Science. The associate degree fulfills lower-division course work which is applicable towards a bachelor’s degree.

 For more information about Northern Oklahoma College or giving to the NOC Foundation, please contact the development office at (580) 628-6208 or visit the NOC website at

NOC Partners with Otoe-Missouria for On-Site Enrollment

Otoe-Missouria On-Site EnrollmentNorthern Oklahoma College conducted an on-site enrollment event at the Otoe-Missouria education center on December 5, 2018. NOC students dropped by and enrolled for the 2019 spring and summer semesters.

Gina Conneywerdy, NOC’s Native American Recruiter and Advisor, met with Otoe-Missouria tribal members providing assistance with financial aid, tribal funding, bursar questions, and course enrollment.

The on-site enrollment event was part of the services provided by NOC’s Title III NASNTI grant. Additional members of the enrollment team were Dr. Rae Ann Kruse, NASNTI Grant Project Director and Anna Scott, Distance Learning Specialist. Gloree Tah, Director of Higher Education for the Otoe-Missouria Tribe assisted Scott with the enrollment event.

Conneywerdy said, “Through the NASNTI grant, we are able to provide more personalized student services for Otoe-Missouria students.”

NOC worked with the Tribe to create an access site in the Education Building where students can use NOC computers to take online classes or connect to ITV courses.

NOC is currently enrolling for the 2019 spring and summer semesters. Spring classes begin January 14, 2019. Four sessions of summer school run from May 18 to August 1. Fall 2019 classes are projected to begin August 19, 2019.

Joe Don Brave Honored with Artist Reception

Joe Don BraveNorthern Oklahoma College welcomed Osage artist Joe Don Brave to the Cultural Engagement Center Wednesday, November 28, for an artist reception.

The Cultural Engagement Center, located in the Vineyard Library/Administration Building was created by a Native American Serving Nontribal Institution (NASNTI) five-year $1.75 million grant.

The exhibit displays a number of selections of Brave’s art symbolizing Osage Nation and Cherokee culture. The exhibit will be on display through the fall semester.

The CEC is open from 8 a.m. – 5 p.m. daily during the school year.

Brave, a Native American of Osage and Cherokee descent, was born Vincent Paul Brave, named after two famous artists, Vincent Van Gogh and Paul Gogan by his father, Franklin Brave, a successful professional artist and graphic designer.

Native American Heritage Month celebrated in November at NOC

Ted Moore, Native American Student Success SpecialistNorthern Oklahoma College will celebrate Native American Heritage Month with numerous activities in the month of November.

The following are the planned events and activities:

Nov. 7: Standing Bear Story, Harold Hall, Room 312, 10:30 a.m.

Nov. 9: Dance Exposition, Foster-Piper Fieldhouse (East gym), 10:30 a.m.

Nov. 12: Scavenger Hunt Begins, completed by Nov. 15 at 2 p.m.

Nov. 14: Stickball with Jake Roberts, Circle Lawn, 10:30 a.m.

Nov. 15: Rock your Mocs Day

Nov. 28: Free Taste Testing (Corn Soup/Fry Bread), Clock Tower, 10:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.

Nov. 28: Joe Don Brave Artist Reception, Cultural Engagement Center, 10:30 a.m.

Native American Factoids will be on KAYE (The Source FM Radio, 90.7) all month and Native American music will be played across the NOC campus Tuesdays and Thursdays from noon – 1:30 p.m.

Joe Don Brave Exhibiting in the CEC

Joe Don Brave Osage artist Joe Don Brave has a number of paintings on display in the Northern Oklahoma College Cultural Engagement Center in the Vineyard Library.

Brave, a Native American of Osage descent, was born Vincent Paul Brave, named after two famous artists, Vincent Van Gogh and Paul Gogan by his father, Franklin Brave, a successful professional artist and graphic designer.

Two weeks after Brave was born, his father decided to nickname him Joe Don after Oklahoma Sooner football legend Joe Don Looney. The name stuck and I have been Joe Don Brave ever since.

Brave moved to Oklahoma when he was nine and lived in Osage County with my Osage people till he went to college. He was raised in the tradition and customs of the Osages, and is still an active participant of annual traditional ceremonial dances.

His father was an accomplished artist, and though he passed away when Brave was eleven, he spent my childhood, being influenced by father’s skills and artwork.

“I still remember visiting him as a child, in his studio and being given markers and paper to create with alongside him.,” Brave said.

He studied art at the Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe, New Mexico, where he learned the fundamentals of art and museum studies.

His career began as a Museum Technician at his tribal museum, the oldest tribal museum in the country, in Pawhuska, Oklahoma.

His career continued at the National Museum of the American Indian; Smithsonian Institute in New York City. During his more than 10 years in New York City, he worked with other organizations such as Sotheby’s Auction House as an art handler, the Tibetan Museum of Art on Staten Island as Collections manager and the Native American Community House Art Gallery, as a Gallery Technician.

Besides his professional museum career and artwork, he has had the opportunity to work on a fishing boat off the coast of Monterey Bay, California, bar tending in New Mexico and landscaper in Colorado. After twenty years of working around the United States, he decided to return to Osage County and pursue his artwork full time.

“My artwork revolves around my heritage, emotions and expressions that I have picked up through my travels and adventures along the road, and while listening to my elder artists tell of their stories and experiences,” he said.

“I am the son of the Osage, part of its history and a product of its many changes endured over time. I am a citizen of the world, as such, seek to define my identity and place within these two worlds, which are but one,” he added.

The exhibit is set to remain in the CEC through the fall semester.

The CEC is open from 8 a.m. – 5 p.m. Monday – Friday.

NOC Lectureship Livestreamed to the Kinzer Performing Arts Center

David Grann FlyerBest Selling Author David Grann will be appearing at Northern Oklahoma College Tonkawa Oct. 17 as part of the NOC Lectureship Series.

Tickets for the dinner are sold out but Grann’s lecture will be livestreamed to the Kinzer Performing Arts Center at NOC Tonkawa.

Tickets for the livestream event are free but should be reserved from the NOC Community Development Office in the Vineyard Library/Administration Building at NOC Tonkawa. Call 628-6214 for more details.

The event is sponsored by the Carl and Carolyn Renfro Endowed Lectureship Program, Northern Oklahoma College and the Native American-Serving Nontribal Institutions (NASNTI) Cultural Engagement Center located in the Vineyard Library at NOC Tonkawa.

Grann’s most recent book, Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI, was on the New York Times nonfiction bestseller list more than 30 weeks and was a finalist for the National Book Award.

Hanna Wensman Speaks at "Natives Guiding Natives" Discussion

Northern Oklahoma College Native American Mentor Hanna Wensman shared her thoughts on student mentoring at a “Natives Guiding Natives” Panel Discussion at the Cultural Engagement Center at NOC Tonkawa Thursday afternoon.

Wensman is of Shawnee, Red Lake Ojibway and Muskogee (Creek) descent. She is one of 10 mentors for over 400 Native American students at NOC.

The mentoring program is managed by Native American Success Specialist Ted Moore as part of the Native American Serving Nontribal Institutions (NASNTI) grant.

Wensman earned a bachelor’s in Health Education and Promotion at Oklahoma State University where she served on the Sports Medicine Staff for Cowboy football. She is currently a Masters of Public Health student at the University of Oklahoma-Tulsa.

When her graduate degree is completed, she wants to work within a tribal clinic’s health and wellness department.

Wensman addressed a number of issues in the panel discussion including advice for native American students.

“Find the proper balance between cultural obligations, school, and work,” she said. “I spend a lot of time talking to students about time management and how to balance all aspects of their lives. It is the most important thing to do.”

“It’s a challenge to balance school and culture together,” she added. “Family and culture are both so important to Native Americans and so there is pressure for students to go back home for cultural events that can interfere with school. That is a challenge to balance the two things because they both are important.”

Wensman said she is thrilled to be part of the mentoring program where she stays connected with around 35 students by e-mail every two weeks.

“I didn’t have mentors when I was in school at OSU,” she said. “It is so valuable to have someone that you can turn to when you’re having problems or just someone to talk to that has been where you are at. If nothing else, I try to encourage students to continue their education. I tried to find upper classman that could give advice on certain classes but I would have enjoyed that mentor relationship as a student.”

“I try to explain to students that I mentor that it’s not going to be easy and there are going to be challenges,” she added. “But the rewards of that degree are so important. Doors are opened that were never opened before. Students have to keep the ultimate goal of a degree as an incentive to work toward.”

She also tries to convey financial literacy to students that she mentors.

“That new pair of shoes may be cute or that video game may be a lot of fun to play but you have to take care of the priorities,” she said. “When you have rent to pay or an electric bill to pay, you pay it first and then you do the fun things later. You have to sacrifice the short term pleasure for long term goals.”

Wensman discussed her biggest challenge as a student.

“As an undergrad finding a study groove was hard for me,” she said. “It took the longest time for me to learn to manage my time. I had two jobs and was going to school, that’s tough to do. By my junior year, I found the balance that I needed.”

“As a graduate student, I lost two cousins to suicide and that’s been difficult. I was in Oklahoma City and alone and that was tough. That has been a challenge to overcome.”

When asked about her inspiration for getting and education, she talked about her mother.

“I apologize for getting emotional,” she said as her voice quivered. “But my mother drove 90 minutes to Northeastern State every day to go back to school when me and my brothers were little. She did it for us and now I see the sacrifice she made and the reason she did it. When I would complain about driving to Stillwater in the rain I would stop and think what my mom did and that inspired me to stay the course and reach my goals of a degree. She was such a great example.”

She also talked about maintaining her cultural identity from both native and non-native Americans.

“I’ve been told that I am ‘too white’ to be native,” she said. “That is very hurtful to hear but you can’t let what people say bother you. I am proud of my culture and just because I can’t go home for every cultural event doesn’t mean that I don’t love my culture and my family. I want to use the education I receive to help my culture in the future.”

Wensman also talked about giving back.

“I am studying Public Health because I want to give back to my community,” she explained. “I will never forget my roots and where I come from and that is so important for me. I hope the students I mentor can see that passion and encourage them to get an education and give back as well.”

The conversation was recorded and is available to be viewed below, as well as on the
CEC at NOC You Tube Channel 

Title III Native American - Serving Nontribal Institutions

Program Description:

This program provides grants and related assistance to Native American-Serving, Nontribal Institutions to enable such institutions to improve and expand their capacity to serve Native Americans and low-income individuals.

This website provides information on the Native American-Serving Nontribal Institutions Program authorized by the Higher Education Opportunity Act, 2008 (HEA, Title III, Part A, Section 319; CFDA# 84.031X) as well as the Native American-Serving Nontribal Institutions Program Program originally authorized by the College Cost Reduction and Access Act of 2007 (HEA, Title III, Part F, Section 371; CFDA# 84.382C).

NASNTI Part F Highlights:

  • The Native American-Serving Nontribal Institutions (NASNTI) program, part F is a federally funded grant through the U.S. Department of Education. It is for Institutions of higher education (IHEs) that have “an enrollment of undergraduate students that is not less than 10 percent Native American students; and are not a tribal college or university (as defined in Section 316 of the Higher Education Act)” (U.S. Department of Education).
  • The grant awarded under part F is a developmental grant that can be used for a particular set of activities as listed by the Department of Education’s website.
  • The project, entitled Merging Tradition and Technology: Engaging Native American and Low Income Students to Complete College, has identified a wide variety of activities through three main initiatives approved by the grant that will be implemented throughout the five years of the grant, October 2016-September 2021.
  • The first initiative will expand access to high demand, high quality courses by revising 30 existing online courses to meet Quality Matters standards; equipping access sites within tribal centers for each of the service area’s six tribes designed to serve as a computer lab and ITV classroom.
  • The second initiative is to develop high quality, interactive online services to support both on-campus and distance education students. NOC will have new and redesigned online services backed by a new data analytic tool that will allow staff to readily access student-level data in real time; provide an online learning readiness assessment, financial aid advising, academic advising, degree mapping, and transfer services.
  • The third initiative is to target Native American student success by establishing a Cultural Engagement Center (CEC) (COMING FALL 2017) within the Vineyard Library Administration building that will provide student support services, cultural activities, and professional development.
  • NOC will also provide resources to highlight Native American culture through language resource library within the Cultural Engagement Center and provide professional development opportunities for faculty and staff on approaches to support Native American student success.
  • Ted Moore, our Native American Student Success Specialist, will run the CEC by leading the development and piloting of culturally aligned individual coaching and other student support services. For more information, please see our contact page.