Buder Center Gets New Funding for Students Working in Indian Country

Diversity; Social Work

An innovative program to support Brown School students who are interested in completing part of their practicums in Indian Country has received additional funding of nearly $1 million for an additional four years to build capacity for integrated and trauma-informed behavioral health care. The program, Social Workers Advancing through Grounded Education (SAGE), is led by the Kathryn M. Buder Center for American Indian Studies at the Brown School.

“The SAGE program is open to any Brown School student who wants to practice in Native communities,” said Kellie Thompson, director of the Buder Center. “The program creates opportunities and reduces student financial burden so students can train to be culturally respectful social workers in Indian Country.”

The SAGE program has funded 69 Brown School social work students since it began in 2014 and was expanded in 2018 to include students in the public health program. The most recent funding by the U.S. Health Resource and Services Administration will support training social work students, including courses and practica in Indian Country. The Buder Center has developed strong relationships nationally with American Indian & Alaska Native organizations, tribes and communities, including important alumni connections. SAGE practicum sites will be organizations serving Native communities and support Native well-being through integrated care, trauma-informed care and behavioral healthcare.

The SAGE program will continue to include training stipends through the Center for Innovation in Child Maltreatment Policy Research and Training, led by Melissa Jonson-Reid, the Ralph and Muriel Pumphrey Professor of Social Work Research at the Brown School.

“It has been an honor to be able to partner with the Buder Center in the SAGE project and watch it grow over the past several years as it builds capacity to serve indigenous peoples across the country in areas of behavioral health, family violence prevention and trauma intervention,” said Jonson-Reid.

“This new opportunity greatly expands the number of students to be served each year as well as provides ongoing infrastructure for collaboration such as the CICM’s support of specific training components. Additionally, it provides matching funding to further expand the program.”

SAGE complements the Buder Center’s central mission, to support the Buder Foundation Scholarship program and to prepare Buder Scholars to be leaders in the field of social work. In 1990, Kathryn M. Buder worked with Native leaders around the country to determine what a center could look like with the aim to prepare students as future social workers who go back to their communities to serve as leaders. Thompson shared there have been 222 Buder scholars since 1990.

“The support the Buder Center receives from the Foundation creates opportunities for Native students and makes everything else we do possible,” Thompson said.

“Students come to the Brown School because of the Center, the American Indian/Alaska Native concentration, and other opportunities like SAGE.”

Thompson said the COVID-19 pandemic required suspending some of the SAGE practicums, while others started virtually. “The Center has tried to create as many opportunities as we can without overwhelming the virtual space we all live in,” Thompson said. The American Indian Student Association hosted virtual talking circles, and the Center adapted in various ways as well, including watching films, delivering and mailing groceries and care packages, and hosting its annual Pow Wow virtually on March 27-28. The Pow Wow reached over 13,000 with its program of music, drums and dancing. “I believe our Native community felt the Pow Wow provided needed connections during a very difficult, isolating year,” she said.

The Center also created the Digital Indigenous Storytelling Project, which shared Indigenous people’s stories who are from the state of Missouri. “Sharing these stories was a way to feel connected to each other,” Thompson said. “Our oral tradition is so important. We are going to continue adding interviews and document the stories of Native people in Missouri to save and share.”

Recently, the Center recently welcomed a new Assistant Director, Veronica Bruesch (Wichita/Ponca), to replace Wynette Whitegoat (Diné), who is pursuing a doctoral degree. Bruesch, MSW ’16 is a Buder Scholar alumna who concentrated in American Indian/Alaska Native populations while at the Brown School. A graduate of Haskell Indian Nations University, she has dedicated her time since graduating from the Brown School to serving Native children and families.

“We are excited to have Veronica back at the Center as part of the team,” Thompson said. “And we are happy to welcome Wynette