Thursday, February 18, 2021

A faculty member from the Tippie College of Business is working with a program in the university’s College of Public Health that partners with Native American tribes to develop new programs addressing mental health and addiction needs in local communities.

The Native American Leadership Academy hosts 10 Native American mentees and 10 mentors annually who work in the field of mental health, behavioral health, substance abuse counseling, or other positions in the helping professions. Anne Helene Skinstad, the program’s director and clinical professor of community and behavioral health in the College of Public Health, says the goal is for participants to assess local health needs in their communities by talking with tribal elders and other leaders, then develop a program that addresses those needs.

She says the program is also intended to develop a deeper bench of leaders in Native American communities.

Tippie Professor Amy Colbert’s role is to collaborate with the mentees to develop leadership and project management skills so they can bring their program proposals to life. Colbert, professor of management & entrepreneurship and department executive officer, has taught classes about leadership development and project management to the program’s last two cohorts.

Each ten-person cohort attends classes, seminars and workshops with their mentors and other mentees throughout the year using Zoom. A series of face-to-face sessions, including kick off and graduation events at Iowa’s Meskwaki Settlement, are also held but were cancelled for the current cohort because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The curriculum includes classes in nuts-and-bolts organizational issues, including the sessions taught by Colbert. One shows participants how they can use feedback they get from co-workers about their leadership abilities as part of their goal-setting. The other teaches such project management skills as collaboration, project structure, and how to measure progress.

“It’s the types of things that we teach in our usual business management classes, but adapted to the cultural context,” Colbert says.

Skinstad says the academy classes are modified by design so they’re not based on a Western model, which people raised in Native communities often find alienating. It’s more loosely organized, she says, which are more comfortable to Native people. Colbert says she embraced a new way of teaching students who work in a different context that most of her students.

“I wanted to be cognizant of how they learn and the challenges they face,” she says. “Having mentors involved in the classes helped with this. They could step in and help the mentees see how the ideas I put out there were relevant to them.”