National Indian Country STEM Effort and Workforce Development Initiative


The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Indian Energy (IE) Policy and Programs and the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Minority Business and Economic Development conducted a planning meeting with key stakeholders to discuss a National Indian Country STEM Effort and Workforce Development Initiative on July 7, 2016, at the National Indian Programs Training Center (NIPTC) in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

The afternoon session engaged stakeholders in a strategic discussion on the creation of a large scale STEM effort for Indian country. The discussion centered on creating opportunities to foster interest in math and science, and create new pathways for tribal students to pursue academic and professional careers in technical fields. Participants collaborated to determine next steps in the collective effort to strengthen the national Native American STEM workforce. 

Science of Sport, a non-profit foundation that develops and teaches STEM (science, technology, enginnering and math) curricula using sports examples presented its program during the morning session. Science of Sport partners with professional and college sports teams to train teachers, coaches and volunteers to use the cirrucula in the classrooms, after-school programs, summer camps and weekend events. Ricardo Valerdi, PhD, founder and chief scientist demonstrated a variety of activities designed to give students the opportunity to see real-life applications of math, science, technology and engineering. 


Building on the Obama administration's commitment to strengthen government-to-government relationships with tribal nations, Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz and the Department of Energy (DOE) hosted a two-day National Tribal Energy Summit, Sept. 24-25, 2015 in Washington, D.C. with Tribal and Alaska Native Leaders. At the summit Moniz learned of the particular need for STEM-educated tribal members because tribes have land and natural resources to steward and/or use for economic development, which requires technical knowledge and skills. The summit produced a host of key takeaways, one of which was the Secretary's commitment to convene a series of roundtables on the status of STEM in Indian country.

Although American Indian and Alaskan Natives make up 1.2 percent of the total population, they represent only .4 percent of all engineering bachelor's degree recipients, .3 percent of the engineering workforce, and .1 percent of all engineering faculty. The goal of the roundtables was to foster a national dialogue on broadening participation of American Indians and Alaska Natives in STEM.

The first roundtable was held in New Mexico, while the second took place at the Science Museum of Minnesota. DOE, federal agencies and other participants will use the recommendations from these meeting to develop a shared policy statement on STEM in Indian country and a plan that focuses on driving innovation in this area and building a pipeline to prepare Native American students for the 21st century jobs that are in high demand. Participants included a diverse group of stakeholders including:

  • Education Advocacy and Program Organizations
  • Federal, State and Tribal Agencies
  • Industry/Employers
  • Mainstream Colleges and Universities
  • STEM Professionals and Mentors
  • Higher Education Students
  • Tribal Colleges and Universities
  • Tribal Leaders

High level roundtable recommendations included:

  • Engagement 
  • Strategic Planning 
  • Public/Private Partnerships
  • Develop STEM Curriculum
  • Workforce Pipeline

The National Indian Country STEM Effort and Workforce Development Initiative meeting addressed the roundtables recommendation of the development of a STEM strategic plan, including an environmental scan of STEM workforce needs, existing resources, and initiatives. 



  • Karen Atkinson, deputy director, Office of Minority Business and Economic Development, Department of  Energy
  • Chris Deschene,  director, Office of Indian Energy, Department of Energy | Presentation
  • Sarai Geary, program manager, Office of Indian Energy, Department of Energy 

Science of Sport Presentation and Facilitated Discussion

  • Ricardo Valerdi, PHD., founder and chief scientist, Science of Sport  | Presentation

 The current state of STEM in K-12 for American Indian and Alaska Native Communities (AI/AN)

  • Sandra Begay-Campbell, executive director emeritus, AISES, Sandia National Laboratories | Presentation

Discussion and Breakout Groups for Action Planning

Next Steps


Photo Gallery