Niganawenimaanaanig is a supportive community for Indigenous nursing students within the four-year and RN-BS programs at Bemidji State, helping them work towards graduation and becoming licensed nurses!
Since 2017, the Niganawenimaanaanig (an Ojibwe word interpreted in English as “we take care of them”) Indigenous Nursing Program has been serving BSU’s Indigenous nursing students, providing a supportive, culturally grounded, communal environment and dedicated staff who advocate for the program’s 4-year and RN-BS students.
To date, Niganawenimaanaanig has supported 35 students from fifteen different tribal nations, graduating and licensing seventeen Indigenous nurses who are now serving in communities throught the United States!
Niganawenimaanaanig is funded by the HRSA Nursing Workforce Diversity grant, which increases nursing education opportunities for individuals from disadvantaged backgrounds, including ethnic and racial minorities who are underrepresented among registered nurses nationwide.
Who is eligible for the Niganawenimaanaanig Program?
Indigenous/American Indian nursing students who have been accepted into Bemidji State’s pre-licensure four-year or RN-BS nursing programs are encouraged to apply to the program. Niganawenimaanaanig defines ‘Indigenous’ as an enrolled tribal member or a descendant of an enrolled tribal member from a tribal nation.
What does the support at Niganawenimaanaanig look like?
For most students, the unique challenges of nursing school are spent apart from supportive families and home communities, many for the first time. Niganawenimaanaanig provides an inclusive community for Indigenous students, that fosters academic achievement and perseverance throughout the ups and downs of college life, drawing strength and encouragement from its supportive circle of students and staff.
Few nursing programs in the nation are able to commit to supporting their students with a devoted, full-time student mentor. Niganawenimaanaanig students have a scheduled weekly check-in with Niganawenimaanaanig Student Mentor, Michelle Saboo, to discuss their goals, celebrate successes, and to address challenges that they might be facing. Officed accessibly alongside the program lounge, Michelle is also available to listen, offer encouragement, and bridge resources with every student’s own unique pathway in mind as needed.
Located in Bensen Hall, which ]houses BSU’s Nursing Department’s faculty, clinical simulation lab, and most nursing classrooms, Niganawenimaanaanig has a dedicated lounge that is comfortable and inviting. The home-like atmosphere provides a space for students to hang out, study, eat, and relax together.
In addition to supporting events throughout the year, Niganawenimaanaanig holds gatherings at the beginning and close of each semester specifically for all program students, providing an opportunity for everyone within Niganawenimaanaanig to meet and encourage one another.
Bemidji State University’s Nursing Program is rigorous and students are expected to pass their nursing courses with a grade of 75% or higher. With this in mind, Niganawenimaanaanig provides academic support to all program students and requires that those currently earning a B- or lower in any class attend weekly tutoring sessions until they have a confident grasp of the course material. Program staff regularly connect students with relevant academic support in the form of course-specific tutors, facilitation of study groups, and by providing referrals to individualized support whenever possible.
Our Student Mentor is a dedicated and accessible academic resource, providing accountability and support throughout each student’s academic journey. Per the program’s student agreement, Niganawenimaanaanig staff receive faculty updates on class performance and proactive measures may be attempted to address challenges before they lead to more detrimental outcomes.
Academic support also comes through affirming relationships and interactions with program staff and fellow program students and students find the lounge to be a very productive academic space for them while on campus. The lounge is a dedicated place where our nursing students study and connect with one another…or just take a break between classes!
Everyone has their own unique history and heritage, as well as their own cultural practices and beliefs that they hold sacred. Program staff recognize and honor that students’ culture plays a different role in each of their lives, encourages their cultural identity, and support them accordingly. Niganawenimaanaanig frequently sponsors and collaborates with others to provide cultural learning opportunities on campus and within the community, often working with the American Indian Resource Center on events that are hosted there throughout the year.
Niganawenimaanaanig serves a campus that is centrally located among the three largest Anishinaabe/Ojibwe tribal nations in the state of Minnesota (Red Lake, Leech Lake, and White Earth) and many of its students represent them. Niganawenimaanaanig program staff are comprised of enrolled members of Anishinaabe/Ojibwe tribal nations or are allied alongside them. In light of these factors, most of the program’s knowledge base and cultural programming comes from an Anishinaabe/Ojibwe perspective.
Every Indigenous nursing student at Bemidji State is welcome and encouraged to be a part of Niganawenimaanaanig. This community is inclusive to all tribal nations, as we believe that our collective diversity strengthens the supportive circle for everyone!
Economic stability plays a pivotal role in the retention and success of nursing college students. To offer some semblance of financial consistency, Niganawenimaanaanig provides semester awards and monthly stipends to eligible Indigenous nursing students in the nursing programs at Bemidji State while they are enrolled in courses. Niganawenimaanaanig students within the RN-BS track may receive financial resources upon being accepted into the program, while 4-year track students receive aid once they are selected to be a part of the BSU nursing program (typically in their sophomore year). Award and stipend amounts may vary by year and individual amounts are determined by their credit load, need, and BSU’s Financial Aid Office.
Once students are accepted into the nursing program, Niganawenimaanaanig students may also be eligible to receive some of BSU’s required nursing program items, such as uniforms and stethoscopes. Niganawenimaanaanig can also provide laptops to eligible program students!
Every community benefits with more Indigenous nurses!