Transcending Barriers to Success: Connecting Indigenous and Western Knowledge

Fieldwork Photo Contest Submission - Dave Krupp
Fieldwork Photo Contest Submission – Dave Krupp

The full program of the concluding conference of Transcending Barriers

The National Center for Science and Civic Engagement (NCSCE) at Stony Brook University has received a grant to establish and advance robust partnerships between indigenous peoples and local formal and informal educators to improve educational outcomes for all students, promote cultural understanding, and foster long-term collaborations on issues of common concern. The program will extend the successful Hawai’i SENCER State strategy to Alaska and four state pilot projects. Local environmental and health issues will provide context for inquiry-based learning that transcends perceived conflicts between indigenous, local, and “Western” knowledge systems.

SENCER (Science Education for New Civic Engagements and Responsibilities), which connects civic issues to STEM content, encourages the incorporation of different perspectives, pushes students to critically analyze preconceptions, and actively engages learners in authentic research.

Cultural collaboration is not merely the awareness of traditions other than one’s own. It requires a deep understanding of and appreciation for the strengths that multiple perspectives bring to solving the complex, contested issues facing all communities. This includes recognizing the impact of past injustices and conflicts that indigenous people have experienced as well as a grounding in the cultural connections of relationships with the environment, traditions, and sacred spaces.


Program Leadership

  • Principal Investigator (PI): Dr. Eliza Reilly, executive director of NCSCE and Research Professor at Stony Brook University
  • Co-PIs: Dr. Lawrence Duffy (University of Alaska Fairbanks), Dr. Robert Franco (Kapi’olani Community College), and Dr. Ulla Hasager (University of Hawai’i at Manoa)
  • Chair of Advisory Board: Dr. Amy Shachter (Santa Clara University)

Pilot Projects

Click here to read about the selected pilot projects.

  • Humboldt State University + Karuk Tribe of California Department of Natural Resources: Amy Sprowles, Assistant Professor, Biological Sciences, Humboldt State University; Lisa Hillman, Pikyav Field Institute Program Manager, Karuk Tribe of California Department of Natural Resources; and Leaf Hillman, Director of Natural Resources and Environmental Policy, Karuk Tribe of California Department of Natural Resources
  • Northern Arizona University + Sustainable Nations Development Project: Denielle Perry, Assistant Professor, School of Earth Sciences and Environmental Sustainability, Northern Arizona University; and PennElys Droz, Ecological Designer/Builder, Sustainable Nations Development Project
  • Salish Kootenai College + Watershed Education Network: Jonathon Richter, Lead Instructor and Dept Chair, Media Design, Film, & Television, Salish Kootenai College; Deb Fassnacht, Executive Director, Watershed Education Network; Holly Truitt, Founding Director, University of Montana Broader Impacts Group, University of Montana; and Mike Durglo, Jr., Division of Environmental Protection Manager and Climate Change Planning Coordinator, Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes

Pilot Project Selection Information

The application period is now closed.

Funding for pilot projects is intended to support the development of mutually beneficial relationships that will last beyond the project period and support student success and healthy environments and communities. Pilot teams are expected to modify at least one course using one of the following themes: (1) conservation and cultural perpetuation, (2) water, or (3) food and health.

Project Term

October 1, 2017 – June 15, 2020


Year 1: Each pilot project is expected to spend Year 1 developing and deepening collaborations with indigenous partners and communities as they plan a course modification that values the contribution of indigenous ways of knowing in solving civic issues. In November 2017, 1-2 members of each pilot project will take part in the in-person program launch meeting which will bring together the project PI, Co-PIs, NCSCE staff, the project evaluator, and members of the Advisory Board. NCSCE will also offer quarterly webinars for all pilot project members to deliver professional development throughout the planning process. Project-specific support will be provided by program leadership based on individual group needs.

Year 2: Pilot projects are expected to run the first version of the modified course and continue relationship development with their indigenous community partners. NCSCE will continue to support pilot project members through a series of quarterly webinars and personal troubleshooting. Pilot partners will also be part of videoconference discussions with Advisory Board members planned every six months. In year 2, funds are available for local, regional, or national dissemination of projects.

Year 3: Pilot partners are expected to run either a revision of the modified course launched in year 2, or a newly modified course on a different theme. NCSCE will continue to support pilot project members through a series of quarterly webinars and personal troubleshooting. Pilot partners will take part in a videoconference discussion with Advisory Board members in the fall of 2019. In the spring of 2020, a capstone meeting will be held in conjunction with the SENCER Hawai’i/SCI-West Regional Meeting. Participants will include the project PI, Co-PIs, NCSCE staff, the project evaluator, pilot project representatives, and members of the Advisory Board.


Recipients of Pilot Project awards will receive a total of $6,000 for course modification in years 2 and 3. Additional funds are reserved from the main grant from the W.M. Keck Foundation for travel to the launch meeting in year 1, the capstone meeting in year 3, and project dissemination opportunities in year 2. Funds for travel are expected to cover 1 person per pilot project; however, opportunities to bring a second person from each pilot will be explored on a case-by-case basis.


Applications for pilot projects will be accepted from accredited colleges and universities, as well as informal education venues, in WA, OR, CA, ID, NV, MT, WY, UT, AZ, NM, CO, KS, OK, TX, LA, and MS.

Application Review Process

Applications will be reviewed by members of the Transcending Barriers to Success Project Leadership Team. Applications that do not answer all applicable questions and/or do not include the required letter of support will be disqualified from consideration. Finalists for pilot grants will be contacted to schedule a call with the leadership team to answer any questions raised during the application review. Responses will be used to determine the final group of awardees. Two of the four awards will be designated for teams from tribal colleges or universities.

Photograph courtesy of Dave Krupp