University Relations and Communications

MSU Billings conference works to transform perceptions

May 14, 2010



Peggy Azure, American Indian Big Sky Projects, 896-5937
Karen Snell, American Indian Big Sky Projects, 896-5952
Dan Carter, University Relations, 657-2269


Slate of keynote speakers to offer insights, strategies for educational diversity


MSU BILLINGS NEWS SERVICES — William Blake once said “if the doors of perception were cleansed everything would appear to man as it is, infinite.”


That premise is behind a weeklong conference at Montana State University Billings designed to transform perceptions to benefit students, families and schools.


Peggy Asure and Karen Snell

The MSU Billings Summer Institute 2010, set for June 7-10, centers on the theme of “Transforming Perceptions.” Organizers say the conference is a perfect way for educators, social workers, parents, university students and others to move beyond limits set by personal perceptions.


“There are a lot of perceptions out there about learners and kids in general and they are not all accurate anymore,” said Peggy Azure, director of the American Indian Big Sky Projects at MSU Billings. “We need to look at things from someone else’s eyes.”


Some of those perceptions are related to cultural attitudes about students and their learning abilities, which will be addressed by the conference. Speakers with international reputations will give presentations on topics ranging from early literacy, inquiry-based instruction, teaching methods for the millennial student and implementation models for Indian Education for All.


Azure and Karen Snell, a program coordinator with the American Indian Big Sky Projects, said they hope participants are able to leave the conference with a better understanding of intercultural and educational relationships.


For example, they said, Indian Education for All is more than just providing education about and for Indians. It’s about understanding diversity at different levels.


Speakers throughout the four-day conference will address those areas, Azure and Snell said. Keynotes for the conference are:


Monday, June 7, 9-10 a.m.: Dr. Martin Brokenleg, speaking on “The Circle of Courage.” A member of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe, Brokenleg currently lives in Canada and travels the world to provide training for individuals who work with youth at risk as vice president of Reclaiming Youth International. For 30 years, Brokenleg was a professor of Native American Studies at Augustana College in Sioux Falls, S.D. In his keynote address, he will offer concrete strategies for creating environments in which all youth can grow and flourish.


Tuesday, June 8, 8:30-10 a.m.: Ray Buckley, speaking on “Dancing with Holds in your Moccasins.” An author and illustrator of several books, Buckley has had his work appear in many periodicals, journals, books and museums. He will talk about strengthening the future of children — native and non-native — using the gifts and cultures of native people. He will also teach a workshop on using oral traditions as a teaching tool.


Wednesday, June 9, 8:30-10 a.m.: Denise Juneau, Montana Superintendent of Public Instruction, speaking on Montana’s leadership in implementation of Indian Education for All. Elected as Superintendent of Public Instruction in 2008, Juneau is the first American Indian to serve in a statewide elected executive level position. She will talk about the state’s efforts to implement Indian Education for All not only in the K-12 system, but in the higher education system and communities.


Thursday, June 10, 8:30 a.m. to noon: Christy Price, speaking on “Why Don’t My Students Think I’m Groovy?” A professor of psychology at Dalton State College, Price has been teaching at the collegiate level for 18 years, Price will provide insights on the factors that influence student motivation and desire to learn. She says that while there are some influencers beyond an educator’s control, research suggests that one thing a teacher can do to increase student engagement is to create a learning environment that is in some way linked to current student culture.


Dr. Richard Littlebear, president of Chief Dull Knife College in Lame Deer, will wrap up the conference on Thursday with some observations and remarks about transforming perceptions.


In addition to the keynote speeches and the workshops — on topics ranging from literacy skills to using Google in the classroom — a number of vendors will be at the conference to provide hands-on experiences with the latest educational technology.


Other sponsors for the conference are the Southern Montana Association for Resources and Training, the Region III Comprehensive System of Personnel Development as well as funds from an Office of Public Instruction New Slate Technology Partnership grant.

Conference registration is $125 (before May 21) and $150 (after May 21). Participants can also sign up for OPI renewal 1 or 2 college credits for $125 per credit.


To register, call 896-5890.


PHOTO ABOVE: Peggy Azure, seated, and Karen Snell, who work with the American Indian Big Sky Projects at the MSU Billings College of Education, are the main coordinators of the upcoming Summer Institute at MSU Billings. The conference focuses on “Transforming Perceptions.”



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