Another First: UW-Green Bay Launches First Doctoral Program in First Nations Education

The University of Wisconsin-Green Bay announced today (March 22, 2018) that applications for the University’s Doctorate Degree in Education (Ed.D.) in First Nations Education are now being accepted. The University’s first-ever doctoral program—the only one of its kind in the state of Wisconsin—marks a significant milestone for the University and the state as a whole. The program’s first cohort class will begin in fall 2018.

The new program is centered in Indigenous knowledge systems and draws upon Indigenous teaching and learning methods from elders and oral scholars, and faculty expertise in First Nations Education. The program is practitioner-focused and driven by professional and community needs. The Education Doctorate (Ed.D.) is an applied degree that addresses genuine problems and generates knowledge about First Nations.

The Higher Learning Commission (HLC) conducted a site visit to UW-Green Bay in April 2017 and gave approval for the program. Its “stamp of approval” indicates that UW-Green Bay has qualified faculty, facilities and resources necessary to support a doctoral-level program, and it is a good fit for the University based on its already established and respected undergraduate programs in First Nations Studies, graduate program in Education and good relationships with the region’s tribal communities.

“A doctoral degree in First Nations Education prepares graduates to lead change in schools, colleges, and other education organizations,” says UW-Green Bay’s Associate Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs and Director of Graduate Studies, Matt Dornbush. “The program reflects UW-Green Bay’s commitment to respond to local and state needs. The fact that our first doctoral program is focused on our area’s first stewards, the First Nations people, is something we couldn’t be more proud of.”

UW-Green Bay Associate Professor Lisa Poupart, Ph.D. is the doctoral program director and a member of the Lac Du Flambeau Band of Lake Superior Anishinaabeg. She is involved in a number of initiatives to standardize First Nations Studies curriculum in K-16. Her collaborative book “Connective Pedagogy: Elder Epistemology, Oral Tradition and Community” explores the traditional knowledge and teaching methodology of the Tribal World. Poupart works with First Nations oral traditional Elders and First Nations youth in higher education settings.

Other faculty teaching in the program are Associate Professor JP Leary and Lecturer Forrest Brooks. Leary, of Cherokee/Delaware heritage, is a member of the Ed.D. executive committee and will teach Ed.D. courses. His primary research interests relate to curriculum policy, the history of education and the representation of Native people in education and popular culture. He is the author of the new book, “The Story of Act 31: How Native History Came to Wisconsin Classrooms.”

Brooks is an enrolled member of the Oneida Nation of Wisconsin, and has ancestral lines in both the Stockbridge Munsee Nation of Wisconsin and the Menominee Nation. He is a full-time lecturer in First Nations Studies and brings rare experience and knowledge to the program given his lifelong learning in the oral tradition. He is a lifelong learner of Haudenosaunee original ways of thinking, being and doing.

According to Poupart, graduates of the program will have the knowledge to significantly impact education, policy development and advocacy at state, federal, and sovereign nation levels. First Nations Education demonstrates the institutional commitment to First Nations intellectual traditions and the preparation of leaders grounded in indigenous world view and practice.

A leadership team led by Poupart has worked thoughtfully with community members and tribal leaders across the state to plan the program. The 54-credit degree program consists of a set of core courses offered primarily in face-to-face settings, reflecting the strong commitment to the oral tradition rooted in the First Nations culture. Traditional indigenous educational methods include learning by example, experience and storytelling.

Classes will be offered on weekends with some online delivery to accommodate working professionals. Students complete the degree with a culminating applied dissertation project in years three and four. Each dissertation will be developed in collaboration with First Nations governments, communities and individuals.

Of the 26 campuses in the University of Wisconsin System, UW-Green Bay will be the seventh to add a doctoral program. First Nations Education is a relatively new and growing field of academic study, according to UW-Green Bay Dean of Health, Education and Social Welfare, Susan Gallagher-Lepak. “Graduate degrees in indigenous education are granted at only a few institutions,” she said. “This program allows us to inform educators how to teach and proactively address educational and social issues for our First Nations population,” said Gallagher-Lepak.

The program will enroll 15 people as a cohort, every two years. The program is specifically designed for individuals working in education, cultural revitalization, community organization, human services and government. Professionals with present or emerging leadership responsibilities in a variety of educational communities — PK16, public, private, tribal, and parochial schools; two-year colleges, tribal colleges, technical colleges, health care institutions, community organizations, social services, government agencies, consulting organizations and international agencies — will benefit.

UW-Green Bay’s First Nations Studies undergraduate program, has long been a leader in First Nations education, and received the Board of Regents Diversity Award in 2012.

In 1989, the Wisconsin legislature passed mandates commonly referred to as Act 31, recognizing that First Nations history, culture, sovereignty and philosophy are a necessary part of any citizen’s learning base. Established in 2009, UW-Green Bay’s Education Center for First Nations Studies is an Act 31 resource dedicated to improving and supporting First Nations education and teacher education program. The Center helps educators in teaching youth about the history, culture, sovereignty and contemporary status of First Nations in Wisconsin.

More information on the program can be found at



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