Northwest Indian College
2522 Kwina Road
Bellingham, WA 98226
Mission, Vision, Educational Philosophy
Through education, Northwest Indian College (NWIC) promotes indigenous self-determination and knowledge. The educational philosophy of NWIC is based upon the acknowledgement that tribal values and beliefs are the foundation of education and must include a study of Native American culture, language and history within the tribal community.
The college aims to engage indigenous knowledge, remain committed to student success, provide access to higher education opportunities at all levels for tribal communities, and advance place-based community education and outreach. NWIC promotes strong student self-identity, research, and scholarship in order to prepare students for success at the associate, baccalaureate and graduate levels and in the workplace.
Northwest Indian College evolved from the Lummi Indian School of Aquaculture (LISA). Established in 1974, LISA provided fish and shellfish hatchery training for Native American technicians. When employment opportunities for hatchery workers declined in the 1980s, Lummi tribal leaders viewed this as an opportunity to broaden the school’s scope to meet the wider educational needs of tribal members. In 1983, the Lummi Indian Business Council chartered Lummi Community College.
The service area slowly expanded to other reservations and in 1989, Lummi Community College became Northwest Indian College to reflect its role as a regional tribal college. Congress approved NWIC as a Land Grant Institution in 1994. The Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NCCU) granted NWIC accreditation in 1993. In August 2010, NCCU reaffirmed accreditation at the associate degree level and granted NWIC accreditation at the baccalaureate level. Northwest Indian College is now the only regional tribal college in the United States and the only four-year accredited tribal university in Washington, Oregon, and Idaho.
Geographic Features and Challenges
NWIC’s main campus is located on the Lummi Nation in Washington State, 100 miles north of Seattle and 20 miles south of the Canadian border. As the nation’s only regional tribal college, NWIC’s service area includes tribal communities throughout the states of Alaska, Idaho, Oregon, and Washington.
To serve such a large geographic area, the NWIC operates five staffed satellite campuses at Muckleshoot, Nez Perce, Port Gamble, Swinomish, and Tulalip in addition to its main campus at Lummi. Here students benefit from both on-site classes and in classes taught via distance learning. NWIC further offers classes via distance learning to numerous other tribal communities throughout the region. In addition to the formal, degree-oriented courses offered at its satellite campuses, NWIC also sponsors additional cultural, vocational, recreational, adult education, in-service seminars, and other special programming.
Delivering effective instruction long-distance poses a logistical challenge for NWIC. The college uses a variety of delivery methods to teach classes including on-site teaching using local instructors, interactive tele-courses, learning contracts, and online courses.
Academics and Students
NWIC is one of the largest tribal colleges in the country. In the 2010-11 academic year, NWIC had more than 1,500 students (857 annualized FTE and 735 ISC), representing a marked increase from Fall 2006’s enrollment of 623. Sixty-eight percent of NWIC students are female, 85 percent identify as Native American, and 65 percent of NWIC students pursue their studies full-time.
NWIC offers one bachelor’s of science degree program, five associates’ of arts and sciences degree programs, one associate’s of science transfer degree program, one associate’s of applied science transfer degree program, three associates’ of technical arts degree programs, 10 certificate programs, and three awards of completion programs. The college engages students through strong student support programs that range from academic and career advising, to computer literacy assistance and laptop loans to personal counseling and tutoring. To deliver such a diverse array of academic courses and support services, NWIC employs 26 full-time faculty, over 60 part-time faculty, and a total of more than 130 full-time employees.
As the college grew in size and developed additional academic offerings, including its new bachelor’s degree in Native environmental science, academic outcomes improved. In the 2006-07 academic year, 37 associate’s degrees were awarded. By the 2009-10 academic year, the numbers of graduates had increased to include 90 associate’s degree recipients and two students who earned bachelor’s degrees.
Other Outstanding Accomplishments
Until recently, the NWIC campus consisted of modular buildings and trailers clustered around the college library, built in 1931 as the Lummi Day School. In the late 1990s, the college began mobilizing efforts to launch an ambitious capital campaign that would allow it to construct a new campus. By 2011, the college had raised or received pledges for $35 million of NWIC’s $44 million goal. Recent additions include a 67-student dormitory, a classroom building, an early learning center that provides childcare, the Center for Student Success, and new science laboratory space. Plans to construct a new facility for the Coast Salish Institute are also complete.
All of these capital improvements at NWIC have greatly contributed to the institution’s longstanding goal of becoming a four-year university.