The Native student population at the University of Montana has more than doubled in the last decade, a trend that has prompted university officials to seek a more diverse faculty.

When David Beck, chairman of the Native American Studies program, arrived at the Missoula campus in the year 2000, about 300 Native students were enrolled, he said. That population has increased to about 800, withNative studentsenrolled in 88 different programs. The increase more closely aligns the university with the demographics of Montana, home to 12 recognized tribes and seven reservations, and where about 10 percent of the total population reports American Indian heritage.

“As the student population more closely resembles the state population, the university realized it needed the faculty to reflect that as well,” Beck said. “Administrators, faculty and students started realizing that it would be important to have Native faculty in a variety of fields.”

The university supports more than 750 faculty members, but the number of Native, tenure-track professors was disproportionate, Beck said. He estimated fewer than 10 Native professors held tenure-track positions prior to 2010.

Since 2010, the university has hired four new Native, tenure-track professors, including Rosalyn LaPier, an environmental studies professor and the first Blackfeet Indian to receive a tenure-track position in the university’s 120-year history. The other new hires are journalism professor Jason Begay and chemistry professorAaron Thomas, both of whom are Navajo, and assistant professor of pharmacy Annie Belcourt-Dittloff, who is Blackfeet, Mandan, Hidatsa and Chippewa.


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