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NASAImproving the educational, health, personal, and professional outlooks for Native Americans will be among the topics discussed when UT hosts the inaugural regional conference of the American Indian Science and Engineering Society on April 8­ and 9.

The event kicks off at 4:30 p.m. April 8 with a stickball demonstration at the Humanities Amphitheater, which will be followed by a traditional Cherokee meal.

The Native American Student Association (NASA) at UT is helping to put on the event—held at locations in John C. Hodges Library and the Frieson Black Cultural Center—as a way to, as it said, “build a bridge from the past to the future.”

“Increasing the success of Native Americans in academia and the STEM [science, technology, engineering and mathematics] fields helps enrich and elevate all citizens of our state and nation,” said Kimberly Smith, council leader for UT’s NASA chapter. “Education represents the best way to honor the past while preparing for the future, which is what we hope attendees can take away from this conference.”

Native Americans are a key group of underrepresented students, along with African Americans and Latinos.

While efforts to increase educational success among those groups have gained significant momentum in recent years, Smith said that less than 10 percent of Native Americans have a degree, compared to 34 percent of the overall population.

That statistic is one of many that AISES hopes to change through events like the conference.

“This event can only help move us forward in our goals of sustainability of and advocacy for Native American students and culture,” said Smith. “In many cases just increasing awareness can be key for achieving goals like ours.”

While educational issues are a key focus, the event also will include sessions on tribal health care, laws, sustainability, and information technology, with time given each day for networking between conference attendees.

Anita Lossiah, a council member for the Eastern Band of the Cherokee Indians, and Tom Belt, Cherokee language coordinator at Western Carolina University, will serve as keynote speakers for the event.



David Goddard (865-974-0683,