State School Superintendent Kirsten Baesler said Wednesday that INSTEM, a highly successful summer instruction program for Native American students, is being expanded to make all North Dakota Native students in grades six through 12 eligible to apply.
Valley City State University hosts INSTEM, which is short for Indians Into Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics. It is held in June during four different time periods, which are segmented for students in specific grades. INSTEM is free to students. They stay in a Valley City State University residence hall for four days, with meals provided.
Baesler said students who want priority consideration should apply by Feb. 28. The final application deadline is April 15. The online application form is on VCSU’s INSTEM website.
Application requirements include a typed and signed autobiographical sketch of the applicant, the student’s most recent academic transcript, tribal heritage documentation, and contact information for a personal reference who is not a relative. Application approval is based on merit, and acceptance is not guaranteed for all applicants.
“Since its inception six years ago, INSTEM has offered a wonderful opportunity for Native American students to explore subjects in science, technology, engineering and math, and experience what it’s like to live away from home on a college campus,” Baesler said.
The INSTEM schedule for summer 2024 is below. Each session begins at 4 p.m. Sunday and ends at 2 p.m. the following Thursday.
- Students going into 7th grade for 2024-2025 school year: June 2-6, 2024.
- Students going into 8th grade for 2024-2025 school year: June 9-13, 2024.
- Students going into 9th or 10th grade for 2024-25 school year: June 16-20, 2024.
- Students going into 11th or 12th grade for 2024-25 school year: June 23-27, 2024.
INSTEM began in 2018 as a pilot project called the “New Town Middle School STEM Academy,” hosting 12 students who had just completed the sixth grade in New Town, on the Fort Berthold Indian Reservation.
The program was cancelled in 2020 and 2021 because of the COVID-19 pandemic, but resumed in 2022, when the initiative was named INSTEM. Last year, the program hosted 54 students over three weeks.
Until now, INSTEM has hosted only students from New Town and the Eight Mile District, which is part of the Trenton Indian Service Area in Trenton, N.D., southwest of Williston. The area serves members of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa. This year, Native American students in grades six through 12 may apply for INSTEM from anywhere in North Dakota.
Dr. Jamie Wirth, a Valley City State mathematics professor who is director of the INSTEM program, said it gives students an opportunity to learn about various STEM disciplines, including engineering design, computer coding, robotics, the arts, and various sciences.
In addition to the academics, “the students have a lot of fun living and studying on a college campus,” Wirth said. “In fact, the most popular question on our closing student evaluation every year is, ‘Can I come again next year?’”