Their t-shirts on this day read: “The University of North Carolina at Pembroke - Native Strong Since 1887.”
First-year American Indian students at UNC Pembroke participated in a special orientation on August 14, just days before classes began. Approximately 200 students and their families signed up.
As a school founded in 1887 by American Indians and located in the heart of the large Lumbee Tribe, this is a special group of students at UNC Pembroke, and many of them like Jordan Deese went to Purnell Swett High School only a few miles from campus.
They are also a very focused group. Deese and Christen Locklear said they would major in biology with the goal of becoming doctors. Amber Dial said she would become a social worker.
When it came to asking questions, Deese got to the heart of the matter: “How can commuter students get involved on campus?”
UNCP’s American Indian Student Government President Candace Locklear had a good answer. “Please, get involved. I did,” she said. “Do something you did not do in high school and do something you really liked to do in high school. It will make you a better student.”
Commuter students at every university have more difficulty engaging with campus activities. They were given some good reasons to become involved.
“When you apply to graduate school with a high grade point average, you have done the bare minimum,” said Dr. Mary Ann Jacobs, chair of the American Indian Studies Department. “You must build a resume that makes you stand out as a leader.”
The students were encouraged to get out of their comfort zone and engage with UNCP’s diverse student body.
“Too often Native students can be intimidated in higher education,” said Lawrence Locklear, who organized the orientation for UNCP’s Southeast American Indian Studies program. “Like many American Indian students, I was a first generation college student. I couldn’t get help from my family. That’s why we’re here today – to help.”
There were many offices represented like Academic Support Services which was there to help. “If you get into trouble in a class, I’ll find you,” said Mark Hunt, coordinator of the HAWK alert program. “But it’s better to ask me for help before you fail the first test.”
Wendy Lowery, vice chancellor for the Office of Advancement went to the bottom line. “You can come to UNC Pembroke and become anything you want to be. We’ve graduated doctors, lawyers, engineers and school superintendents. Take full advantage of your college years. This is a special place.”
Many offices were represented during the day including Student Support Services, Financial Aid, Parent and Family Services, Student Involvement and Leadership, Academic Support Services, Academic Affairs, Transfer Transition, Diversity and Inclusion, Community and Civic Engagement, Student Health Services, Career Center, Counseling and Psychological Services, Information Technology, and American Indian Studies.
The event also featured two panels of students, faculty, staff, and alumni who shared tips for being successful in the classroom and how to best utilize campus services and a student organization/resource fair.