AISES is breaking new ground to champion Native scholars through Lighting the Pathway to Faculty Careers for Natives in STEM (LTP). Funded by a National Science Foundation (NSF) grant, LTP provides multifaceted support to American Indian, Alaska Native, and Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander undergraduate, graduate, and postdoctoral scholars aspiring to become STEM faculty. The LTP experience includes mentoring and travel funding as well as research, fellowship, and internship opportunities.
“AISES started LTP with the concept that we would establish a community of Native scholars to support each other in their academic success, and that’s what has happened,” says AISES Chief Program Officer Kathy DeerInWater. “We are consistently seeing participants advance in their careers, go on to faculty positions, and collaborate professionally beyond their LTP time together.”
LTP scholars receive a participation stipend of $2,000 a year for two years and two years of travel funding to attend the AISES National Conference. Participants may also receive funding for travel to the AISES Leadership Summit or discipline-specific professional conferences.
Dr. Kelsea Hosoda teaches math and science at the Mālama Honua Public Charter School in Waimānalo, Hawaii, and is a Postdoctoral Scholar at the University of California San Francisco, where she conducts postdoctoral research in STEM education persistence. Hosoda holds bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees from the University of Hawaii at Mānoa and was part of the inaugural LTP cohort in 2014.
Where did you grow up and go to school?
I was born and raised in Ko’olaupoko on Oahu. In my pursuit of STEM, I completed all my degrees at the University of Hawaii at Mānoa. My undergraduate degree was in biology with a minor in Hawaiian language, my master’s was in molecular biosciences and biological engineering, and my PhD was in communication and information sciences.
Were you always interested in teaching?
My mom wanted me to be a medical doctor, but I always wanted to be a teacher. So our compromise was biology. As an undergrad, I did a summer research experience at Notre Dame — it really pushed me to spend time in the wet lab and do a lot of molecular experiments. I became intrigued by the process of scientific investigation and that led me to my master’s studies.
“The community and professional relationships and connections are invaluable for me to this day.”
What is the focus of your current postdoctoral work?
It’s an outgrowth of the LTP cohort. I’m looking at how the program has removed barriers and provided mentorship and support for Native students, and how we can replicate this type of program on a larger scale with minimal resources. The research coincides with my work as a teacher, where I’m developing my school’s Native Hawaiian Culture and Science integrated curriculum. Beyond that, I’m very interested in the evaluation of hypothesis-driven research that shows whether various educational programs are working.
How did you become involved with AISES and LTP?
I attended my first AISES conference in 2010 as an undergraduate, and I was so impressed. AISES offers a unique balance between Native identity and culture with rigorous STEM opportunities at all levels. Soon after the conference, a few friends and I started the AISES Hawaii chapter. Being actively involved with the organization, I heard about Lighting the Pathway and decided to apply. Even more than the stipend, the opportunity to travel to the conference for two years seemed incredible to me.
What should our readers know about LTP?
What’s on the LTP brochure sounds really good; what happens in the experience is so much more. The community and professional relationships and connections are invaluable for me to this day. Several of us from the first cohort are still close. We’ve helped one another through many obstacles, and having that network has been extremely beneficial. The mentor relationships I now have as a result are a constant source of support as well. What bonds us is a common mission: to get more Native STEM faculty out there.
What advice do you have about LTP?
There are so many opportunities out there, and Lighting the Pathway is an outstanding one. Even if you’re not sure where you’re headed, consider submitting your application. I had no idea that I would be selected, and it’s made such a meaningful difference for me. To be part of the network and be surrounded by similarly minded people is amazing. When you become part of Lighting the Pathway, you become part of a community of strong and consistent support in your personal and academic journey.
To be eligible for LTP, students must be a current AISES member and meet the following requirements:
For more information, visit aises.org/content/lighting-pathway
If you’ve ever considered a career in Indigenous health, the University of North Dakota (UND) would like you to know about its master of public health (MPH) program. This comprehensive academic opportunity is designed to prepare culturally aware public health professionals for careers in population health in the Northern Plains and beyond. Indigenous health is one of three specializations available to MPH students at UND; population health research and analytics and health management and policy are the other areas of concentration.
UND has redoubled its efforts to address a growing need for Indigenous health professionals to fill roles with organizations such as the Indian Health Service, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and National Institutes of Health — as well as faculty positions at universities and tribal colleges. The MPH program covers all required areas for accredited public health programs, including evidence-based approaches to public health, health care systems, health policy, systems thinking, and leadership. In addition, UND now offers the world’s first doctoral program in Indigenous health.
The UND MPH Indigenous health curriculum includes coursework in the principles of Indigenous health, its social and ecological determinants, American Indian health policy, and public programming in Indigenous populations. The competitive admission process involves completing an online application that requires a written statement, a resume, post-secondary academic transcripts, and three letters of recommendation. In addition, applicants should have:
Dr. Melanie Nadeau is assistant director of the UND Public Health program and a professor of epidemiology and community health. She is an enrolled citizen of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians in Belcourt, N.D., and has worked for more than 17 years in public health with an emphasis on improving health disparities in the American Indian community.
What kinds of students are good candidates for the program?
We welcome applicants from a variety of backgrounds and academic experiences. As long as people meet our criteria and have a genuine interest in improving Indigenous health, we are happy to consider their applications.
What kinds of trends and career results do you see with the MPH offering?
The biggest trend we see is growth and engagement. The MPH program at UND has seen a significant increase in interest and applications over the past few years and is really flourishing. Some of the career roles offered to our graduates include epidemiologist, education coordinator, community violence prevention specialist, COVID-19 program manager, Native governance program manager, and environmental health specialist.
“There is no specific type of student envisioned for the program.”
What if an applicant has a serious interest in Indigenous health but doesn’t meet all the program criteria?
Our review committees offer feedback when students apply, so if they’re close to being eligible, they can know what to address moving forward. We also work provisionally with students to help them meet program eligibility criteria so they can be accepted. If people are willing to put in the work, we will work with them to achieve their goals.
What else would you like to share about the program with our readers?
As a Native person, I’m excited that we offer this Indigenous concentration at the master’s level. It is groundbreaking and we have seen the program lead to successful careers in a number of public health disciplines. I encourage prospective applicants to learn more about our MPH offering and the admission process. I tell people not to be afraid to explore their options and apply. There’s probably never been a better time to pursue a career in Indigenous health.
The program is currently offered online as administrators consider options for returning to in-person and hybrid classes. Applications are accepted year-round in advance of each semester.