Darryl Reano struggled with guilt in graduate school at Purdue University, some 1,400 miles away from his home, in Acoma Pueblo, N.M. There, on his reservation, near a mesa west of Albuquerque, his aunt was dying. “She was on dialysis, and here I was earning my master’s degree,” he says. “I wasn’t around to give my mom a hug. That’s what hurt the most.”
Mr. Reano, who is set to start a Ph.D. program in geology and geoscience education this fall, struggled with feelings familiar to those of many American Indians who leave their reservations to pursue higher education. Graduate education in particular, which demands late nights spent in labs and libraries, can take a psychological toll on students whose identities are so deeply tied to families and communities.
Those ties are a major reason that American Indians earn a troublingly low number of doctorates, say educators and advocates. Other factors are thought to include the extreme poverty typical of many tribal communities, a lack of faculty role models, and a financially challenged tribal-college system. <Read more.>