November 12, 2021

University of Arizona has the highest number of Indigenous students graduating with doctoral degrees, survey says

The same survey ranked the UA seventh for awarding doctorate degrees to Hispanic students.

UA tribal flags Flags from Arizona's 22 federally recognized tribes displayed at the University of Arizona bookstore in November 2020.
Chris Richards/University of Arizona

A new survey shows 5% of doctoral degrees awarded to Indigenous students over the last several years came from the University of Arizona, making the UA the top institution awarding doctoral degrees to Native Americans.

The National Science Foundation looked at 184 institutions to see who earned doctorate degrees from 2016 to 2020, and it found that the UA awarded 28 to Indigenous students.

N. Levi Esquerra is with the UA's Native American Advancement and Tribal Engagement Office. He says at a recent conference with tribal leaders several described a need for health care workers and teachers.

"One of the tribal leaders said, 'You know what we got to do a better job of growing our own in the education field. Where we want to see our teachers look like us, so [students] can actually say that's a role model of what I can achieve, right?'" said Esquerra.

Esquerra credits the ranking from the [The National Science Foundation] to UA programs, like the Indigenous Teacher Education Program, that are tailored to attract and benefit Indigenous students seeking higher degrees.

He said that while being number one for this category is a victory, there's more to do. He said tribal leaders recently challenged the university to hire more Indigenous faculty.

"Being a medical school, how can we do more research, but they said, 'how can we as tribes support Native faculty and their research efforts — having research done by us for us,'" he said.

The same survey found that the UA awarded 200 degrees to Hispanic students and ranked number seven among 384 institutions surveyed in that category.

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