The proposed FNS major requires 9 credits of supporting courses and 27 credits of upper-level courses. The additional supporting course is one that is already offered for Ethnic Studies General Education, so it will require no new resources. (See Attachment A for a list of the courses proposed for the Major.)
The additional 12 credits at the upper level (beyond that which is already required for the minor) comes from the Oral Emphasis Requirement. Currently there are two options for students in the Oral Emphasis Requirement. A third option is under development and relies on the collaboration with the College of Menominee Nation. In the first option, students may take 12 upper level credits in the Oneida Language Project . A second option is FNS 399: Elder Epistemology and Oral Traditions, which may be taken for 1 to 12 credits. This course is at the heart of the latest research in First Nations Studies, which recognizes that the foundation for study of native peoples is premised upon tribal Elders who preserve and transmit knowledge.
Students who earn a degree major in First Nations Studies must learn not only how to use resources in libraries, but how to study the oral traditions by working with tribal Elders and language speakers. The faculty on campus will process their findings and evaluate (grade) their understandings, but the research and learning will take place between students and tribal Elders. Students must learn how to approach elders and to conduct research using oral techniques, skills that are taught in their earlier course work. Then, students will interact and study with tribal Elders to synthesize and acquire oral traditional knowledge. At this point, the course (and the major) deeply fulfills the mission of the UW System (and all of higher education) to discover and disseminate knowledge. We liken FNS 399 to other internship and student teaching opportunities from other disciplines and programs. Students enrolled in FNS 399 must be in their senior year of study in FNS and will, thus, have spent a number of years in FNS courses preparing for this learning experience.
Throughout their course of study in FNS, students are closely mentored by FNS faculty members, primarily Poupart and Christensen. This mentoring relationship is unique and serves as a foundation for the program. By their senior year, through their coursework and through faculty mentorship students gain the knowledge and understanding necessary to work with Elders in a community setting. Given the mentoring process, faculty members are intimately knowledgeable of student strengths, interests, and career goals and will seek individual Elders to work with the students. Through the mentoring process students are also keenly aware of the requirements and expectations of FNS 399. The number of hours a student will spend in actual contact with Elders (per credit hour) when enrolled in FNS 399 will vary. Across the UW Green Bay campus there is a long-standing precedent requiring student internships, service learning, and student teaching. The number of contact hours students spend in these placements per credit hour varies tremendously across campus from 4-10 contact hours per 3 credits. Thus, students enrolled in FNS 399 as well as Elders working with students in this course will understand and agree that they will spend 4-10 hours per week together per 3 credits the amount of time to be arranged and determined by the Elder with the student.
In addition, prior to actually working with Elders, some students enroll in FNS 399 for 1-3 credits in preparation for their actual community work. In order to assist both students and Elder teachers, FNS faculty prepare each student and Elder individually for the FNS 399 teaching and learning experience. In addition, each student and Elder teacher are given a brief summary of the outcomes and expectations of FNS 399 prior to the course. This document, entitled the Oral Concentration Brief is Attachment D. Further, during the semester a student enrolled in FNS 399 also meets regularly with FNS faculty to discuss their work and their progress. Elder teachers in FNS 399 working with students during the semester have the option of meeting with FNS faculty to discuss the course and student work, but this is at the discretion of the Elders. With the use of tribal elders as resources, UW – Green Bay can offer a major with no additional resources. Since this major is dependent upon the support of the native communities, we are including letters of support from local tribal leaders.
In addition, a third option in the Oral Emphasis is being discussed with administrators at the College of the Menominee Nation. It is our hope to offer FNS majors up to 12 credits from courses in Menonminee language, history and culture offered through CMN. Students electing in the Menomineee Nation Concentration would also take part in additional upper-level work in FNS. Since we are in the beginning stages of the discussions with CMN, details are not available at this time.
Each student in the FNS major will be required to complete an oral examination at the end of his/her course of study. This kind of oral examination is widely used throughout the academy, most notably in the oral defense of graduate-level work. In the FNS oral examination, students will discuss and explore the Four Pillars of knowledge utilized within their oral concentration project. A team of FNS faculty will provide questions and guidelines (one of which is that the project be completed on and with one of the three regional Nations) for the students. In addition, students will receive instruction in the acceptable structure or form used when preparing for the oral exam. FNS faculty will hear and listen to the exams and, when possible, regional tribal Elders will join in the assessment. The oral exam will be videotaped as a record indicator. The project and exams will be completed before the student(s) graduate, with group process as part of the oral exam, in the event a number of students are graduating at the same time.