A $100,000 donation will provide funds for a new scholarship benefitting Native Americans pursuing a degree in the health sciences field.
The Dr. Walter Anyan Scholarship Endorsement was established by Carol Ann Anyan, of Guilford, Conn., to honor her late husband, and it will finance both incoming and current University of South Dakota students on their road to becoming a health care professional.
The scholarship, which is set to go into effect during the 2015-2016 school year, could assist students like sophomore Skyler Bordeaux, a transfer student from White River, S.D.
Bordeaux is studying kinesiology and is on track to becoming a physical therapist.
“(The scholarship) is definitely an awesome thing,” he said. “I think if they’re helping any minority, it definitely should be us.”
Serving as the secretary for the American Indian Science of Engineering Society (AISES), Bordeaux has seen the vast number of students studying in the field and the need for tuition assistance for Native Americans.
Michael Lawler, dean of the School of Health Sciences, said the scholarship will be open to undergraduate students studying addiction studies, dental hygiene, health sciences, medical laboratory science, nursing and social work.
“We’re hoping the scholarship will support those fulfilling the degrees,” Lawler said. “We’re hoping to see (this) in recruiting and retaining top American Indians.”
Students would have to apply for the scholarship under general scholarship requirements, and the student selected each year would receive about $4,000 in aid.
“It’s nice to be able to provide students with extra support, so we’re just thrilled,” Lawler said. “This is one of those blessings to the school.”
Gene Thin Elk, director of USD’s Native Student Services, said he appreciates that the scholarship committee will take into consideration the school work prospective scholarship students have done to get accepted into USD and since then used to succeed in their education.
“Students being successful in class, they really earned that,” he said. “It’s not like you’re being given something and that’s it. You’re actually earning it — your job is being a student.”
Students who receive the scholarship would agree to practice their field of study in their home communities upon graduation, as part of the scholarship’s requirements.
Thin Elk said this will be an important step for those in the health field.
“There’s such a tremendous need, I think, not just on reservations but in rural South Dakota,” he said. “You know, it’s hard so any health care professionals that we can get to the rural areas, the better off we are.”
Thin Elk hopes students will be inspired to take on a health care degree, knowing there are people available to help them along the way.
“We know that middle class people are really struggling and any kind of financial help that one can receive, whether it’s books, tuition, housing or anything,” Thin Elk said.
Bordeaux said he attended school in Colorado free of charge as a Native American, but ultimately decided to transfer to USD to participate in a better program. With such a large population of Native Americans in the state, he said it is good to see steps being taken to help more Native Americans get degrees.
“It’s just nice to see that USD is supporting the Native community still, so this is great,” Bordeaux said.
(Photo: Sophomore Skyler Bordeaux and junior Katie Ludemann, both majoring in kinesiology, study together Jan. 21 at the Native American Cultural Center. The Dr. Walter Anyan Scholarship Endowment will be open to Native American undergraduate students who are pursuing a health sciences degree. Josie Flatgard / The Volante)