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Kourtnee Baukol and Erica Jensen

U student Kourtnee Baukol and alum Erica Jensen.

American Indian Cultural House helps U students succeed in college

By Bob San

January 8, 2008

Thanks to the American Indian Cultural House (AICH), University of Minnesota students such as Julia Littlewolf and Kourtnee Baukol are blossoming as scholars and individuals.

The AICH, which recently held a reception to celebrate its fifth year, is a University effort to help American Indian students adjust to campus life. AICH is a living and learning community on the University's Twin Cities campus open to all incoming freshmen who are either American Indians or students interested in the American Indian culture. AICH creates a sense of community for these students, helping them adapt to college and increasing retention rates among American Indians. "The Cultural House helped me build connections right away," says Littlewolf, who along with Baukol are members of the first Cultural House class that entered the U in 2003. "We took classes together, had meetings, and hung around each other. Just to be able to share with other students with similar background was encouraging and [program director] Jillian Rowan was a great support. The best thing is that being a part of the Cultural House was like having your own family. It was a good stepping stone to the campus for first-year students." With the support of AICH students and staff, Littlewolf successfully made the transition from a small reservation to a major university campus. She is a member of the White Earth Reservation, and in addition to being a senior who will graduate this spring with a double major in communications and American Indian studies, she is also serving as a board member on the U's American Indian Student Cultural Center and a peer mentor for the Multicultural Center for Academic Excellence.

"When I was [on] the reservation, school was always difficult for me," adds Littlewolf. "I became a better student in high school but I never expected to be going to college so soon. But in May I am going to have a bachelor's degree. I can't even imagine how I would have done without the Cultural House."

Baukol, a resident of Rochester and a member of the Turtle Mountain band of Chippewa (a Native American tribe of Ojibwa and Metis peoples) in Belcourt, South Dakota, says she has received plenty of assistance from Rowan in areas such as scholarship letters and applying for financial aid. "As a freshman, it is often hard to transition into life on your own," Baukol says. "The Cultural House gave me an informal education about how to survive and how to incorporate Native traditional ways. The house gave me a home, a community in which I belonged. That is what the house was intended to provide--a place that would make the transition easier."

Julia Littlewolf
U student Julia Littlewolf

Like Littlewolf, Baukol will also graduate this spring, with a degree in family social science. "I know that a large part of the reason I am graduating is because of my experience within the Cultural House," she says.

For more information about the American Indian Cultural House, call Jillian Rowan at 612-626-0733.

Further reading For the love of all things American Indian