UW-Eau Claire & Ho-Chunk Nation 'Living & Learning' together

By: Jenny You Email
By: Jenny You Email
A tribal nation that

(left to right) UW System Regent Edmund Manydeeds, Ho-Chunk Nation President Jon Greendeer, UW-Eau Claire Chancellor James Schmidt

From University of Wisconsin - Eau Claire on the Priory:
Frequently Asked Questions

What are the unique features of The Priory?
It is an iconic complex featuring three buildings located in a wooded setting located just minutes from campus. On-site parking is available.

Are tours available?
Yes. Contact Troy Terhark, at 715-836-4218 or terharta@uwec.edu to schedule a tour.

Does the University own The Priory?
No, the UW-Eau Claire Foundation owns the building and is leasing it to the University by way of a long-term lease that extends for 15 years.

Is the UW-Eau Claire Foundation paying for the operations and maintenance of the buildings?
No, the University currently is paying the lease as well as the operation and maintenance of the buildings.

Is the Nature Academy (University Childcare Center) at The Priory allowed to occupy the space rent-free?
No, the Nature Academy is the anchor tenant at The Priory and is paying for space.

What kind of space is available at The Priory?
The Priory consists of approximately 80,000 square feet of space spread among three different buildings. There are multi-purpose rooms of variable sizes, a commercial kitchen, residential space, and 112 acres of green space. Approximately 40,000 square feet remain available for use.

What kinds of other programs will be occupying The Priory in the future?
Future programs will need to be economically sustainable initiatives that support and extend the University’s mission, vision, and values.

Who will decide which programs will be housed at The Priory?
The Priory Development Taskforce will identify the “highest and best use” for The Priory that fits the University mission. This recommended plan will be submitted to the Chancellor.

How may I share my ideas with the Taskforce?
The Taskforce welcomes your ideas. Contact Katherine Rhoades for more information.
•Katherine Rhoades, Phone: 715.836.3312 Fax: 715.836.2902 rhoadeka@uwec.edu

EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU) -- A tribal nation that's been around for 50 years and a university are making history.

University of Wisconsin – Eau Claire and the Ho-Chunk Nation, based in Black River Falls have signed a memorandum of intent. Leaders said the agreement could change the way American Indian students view access to education beyond High School

The collaboration would be to pursue different activities and creating a living and learning community at the Priory, the former St. Bede’s Priory, southwest of Eau Claire. Ho-Chunk Nation President Jon Greendeer said the space would be inclusive, promoting culture, educational advancement and a common vision with UW-Eau Claire.

Chancellor James Schmidt said it’s a plan that’s been in the works for the last couple of years.

“This living and learning community will not only draw students from the Ho-Chunk Nation to UW-Eau Claire and possibly CVTC for educational purposes, but it is our hope to combine with that an important cultural aspect imbedded with that program where Native American students would study and live here,” said Schmidt.

The Priory was purchased by the UW-Eau Claire Foundation Inc. in October 2011. The property includes 112 mostly wooded acres in the town of Washington and 80,000 square feet of building complexes, just three miles from campus. The Nature Academy (University Childcare Center) is also located at the Priory.

Because Sisters of Saint Bede Monastery used to live at the Priory, some rooms are already equipped to be dorm rooms for students. Right now, 19 students have chosen to live at the Priory.

Greendeer said the memorandum symbolizes the beginning and the future of the partnership.

“It's also a chance for the university community to learn about the Ho-Chunk Nation as well from a different perspective, from a more firsthand account,” said Greendeer. “No university that I know has begun a partnership like this in our university system and so this is actually a pioneering ground as well.”

Although plans for what’ll happen at the Priory are still in the works, Greendeer and the tribe’s executive direction of the Department of Education Adrienne Thunder said the partnership is a big step. That’s especially true because the age of youth coming up in the nation will soon seek higher education.

“Obviously concern for their future is pretty great,” said Thunder. “We want to make sure they're college ready by the time they graduate from high school and they have options for, and I hope this (UW-Eau Claire) is one of them they will consider first and foremost, again to learn more to continue their learning not only on the academic sense but culturally.”

Thunder and Greendeer had been working on the collaboration since former chancellor Brian Levin-Stankevich’s time at UW-Eau Claire.

“It puts us moving together rather than seeing as one another separate entities. I think this is an opportunity for economic growth, cultural understanding a good future for all of our communities,” said Thunder.

Debra Barker is the director of American Indian Studies at UW-Eau Claire. She has been working with others in the UW system on an educational initiative called ‘Access to Success for Native American Students’.

Barker said there are often times working adults and college-age adults within the American Indian community find barriers in pursuing higher education. That includes finding childcare and finding a community of other Native American students with whom they can share something common.

“This living learning community seemed like the perfect answer especially for those students who need childcare with Nature Academy next door, the shuttle service to campus that provides transportation, and most importantly a kind of social and cultural safety net for students,” said Barker.

Barker said right now there are around 108 American Indian students at UW-Eau Claire and the Wisconsin Dept. of Public Instruction found in 2010, a little more than 12,000 American Indian students enrolled in public school.

“This is a kind of space that understands that and anticipates that and plans for that and it’s just one of those ways that we can support the success of graduation rates of our American Indian graduating students,” said Barker.

Chancellor Schmidt said by fall 2014, they hope to have the Priory setup as a living and learning community for non-native and Native American students.

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