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Marquette Launches Josiah A. Powless Scholarship for Native American Students

Ed Bierman

Marquette University just launched the Josiah A. Powless Scholarship - a fund that will help Native American students and other underrepresented minorities afford tuition at the prestigious university.

But according to Marquette Provost, Dr. Daniel Meyers, the fund is also symbolic of Marquette’s dedication to creating a more welcoming campus.

“It announces that we want Native students to come and that we’re interested in finding financial support for them,” says Dr. Meyers. “So it’s not just the direct impact of the student who will benefit from the scholarship, it’s also sending a message to the world that we care about having these students on our campus. We know that they’re going to enrich our environment.”

Marquette’s Native American Student Association, or NASA, has been an integral part in setting up the scholarship fund. The group’s president, senior Rainer Posselt, grew up on the Stockbridge-Munsee Indian Reservation in central Wisconsin. He says the move to Milwaukee was pretty challenging.

“It was an extreme change for me,” says Posselt.  It’s a totally different world. In an Indian community, you know everybody and you move to the city and you’re just a number. And it’s hard because I mean, my reservation is mostly forested. Milwaukee is bright and it’s loud and you can’t sleep. It was hard getting adjusted.”

For some Native American students, college life presents unique obstacles, which is why NASA is advocating for an advisor and a space for Native students on campus.

Emily Sexton is a sophomore at Marquette and NASA's secretary as well as a member of the Athabaskan tribe. She's hoping to create a better environment for students on campus through the scholarship and more programming aimed at teaching students about Native American culture.

“I knew I was giving up Native American studies. I knew I was giving up Native American support systems and advisors. But just being there for two years, you can see that the systems are going to be put in place in a few years,” says Sexton.

Joy Powers hosts and produces Lake Effect. She joined WUWM January 2016 as a producer for Lake Effect.