When academics generate data on race in higher education, they often include an asterisk next to the Native American category. That little mark lets researchers know the population is “statistically not significant,” usually meaning roughly less than 1 percent of the student population.
In March, Stylus Publishing will release what is perhaps the most comprehensive collection of writing by Native American scholars to date: “Beyond the Asterisk: Understanding Native Students in Higher Education.” With contributions from more than a dozen leading Native Americans in higher education, the new book examines the Native American college experience from almost every angle — from the first-year experience, to tribal colleges, to Native American Greek organizations and culturally sensitive housing.
“One of the things that constantly came up [for the Native American academics] was this concept of invisibility: in scholarship, research, data, curriculum and on the campuses,” says Heather J. Shotton, the lead editor of the book. Shotton is a professor at Oklahoma University and a member of the Wichita and Affiliated Tribes. “For us, the idea was to offer some perspective on Native students, from Native professors.”
Shotton is quick to point out that the Native experience is different from other minority groups.
“I think what separates Native students is that Native people are not just a racial or ethnic group. We are also considered a political group,” she says. “We are citizens of sovereign nations — tribal nations, but also citizens of the United States.”