The Oregon State University (OSU) Superfund Research Program (SRP) Center hosted high school students from tribal nations for its third annual Tribal Youth Campus Tour. During the two-day learning exchange, tribal youth from the Columbia River region learned about SRP research, environmental health, and career opportunities in science, technology, engineering, and math.
"Engaging people across communities and generations is an important component of the OSU tribal partnership," said Molly Kile, Sc.D., leader of the OSU SRP Community Engagement Core. "The campus tours connect tribal students with OSU and the work of the SRP."
The students learned about environmental health and chemical exposure from Robert Tanguay, Ph.D., director of the OSU SRP Center. Tanguay gave the students a tour of his lab, where he uses zebrafish to test the toxicity of synthetic chemicals like those found in flame retardants and paint.
"I didn’t know there was such a connection between our tribes and the research here," said Starr Redcrane, a visiting student. "I never expected that as a part of this trip."
At OSU, Native Americans represented only 0.6 percent of the 2018 graduating class. According to Kile, the OSU SRP Center hopes to help increase that number through programs such as the Tribal Youth Campus Tours. High school students on the campus tour heard from current Native American students and faculty and toured campus dorms.
"It was really cool to hear from other natives about their experiences at OSU," said Redcrane. "Some of the things I thought might be disadvantages of going to a large school are actually advantages."