How Employers Can Work With Tribal Colleges and Universities to Hire Native American Students: A NACE Affinity Group Report

By Bless Vaidian posted 09-28-2020 07:27


September 28, 2020

Bless Vaidian
is an adviser at SEO and works with underrepresented college students from all across the globe to create successful outcomes. She is the founder of Career Transitions Guide and former director of career services at Pace University.    

There are 32 fully accredited Tribal Colleges and Universities (TCUs) in the United States. According to the American Indian Higher Education Consortium, TCUs operate on more than 75 campuses in 16 statesand  serve students from 230 federally recognized Indian tribes. 

Our NACE Tribal Colleges and Universities Affinity Group kicked off its first meeting last week. Excited that we are able to come together as the NACE community to evaluate and set goals that can impact TCU’s as well as Native American students all across the country. Native students are often forgotten and lack allies as well as resources that other students have. More than 28% live below the poverty line. According to the American Indian College Fund, Native Americans account for only 1% of all college students and only 13.6% earn a college degree. Some Native American students do go on to top-ranked universities and have access to support services, job opportunities, and employers, but many rely on TCUs and face barriers to career success that we as a NACE community can assist with. 

 Here are a few ideas I have been thinking about for a while and look forward to hearing your thoughts at our next TCU Affinity Group meeting. 

  • Often, students in TCUs lack access to internet and the technology needed to find an internship or access a career resource. Employers serious about targeting and recruiting our Native American and indigenous students can build a relationship early by going into these communities and sponsoring reliable internet. This barrier once removed, can open opportunities and provide access to resources.   
  • Companies can provide transportation for students to on-site information sessions, and even daily to internships. For students that cannot afford a car, a bus that goes from campus to the office would be welcome.   
  • Companies can expand on their mentor programs and employee resource groups (ERGs) and assign a corporate volunteer to mentor traditional and non-traditional TSU students once a week.   
  • Career centers at TCUs are sometimes fully staffed, but more often have limited grant funding and do not have a career office. One of the resources that TCUs can tap into, are programs like InroadsManagement Leadership for Tomorrow (MLT), and SEO that provide career coaching and access to employers. 
  • Career centers across the region can open events to students from TCUs that might not have access to fairs, programming, and alumni or employer connections.   
  • Often times students can’t or do not want to walk into a career office. We can bring our career services to a location that Native students frequent, i.e., community center, shop, or a popular hangout. Set aside a few hours weekly to leave the career office and provide resume assistance in a different location.   
  • I have heard employers say TCUs lack a career services point person to coordinate with. But services and the distribution of materials can be coordinated with others on campus or the community. We can provide students with the tech items they are lacking, like cell phones and laptops. Sponsor a clothing drive, food pantry, or even a food truck near campus.   

I have worked on career programs for underrepresented and marginalized students for 15+ years and wish I had the funds to bring these ideas to action. The next best thing to that, is creating partners and allies within our newly launched Affinity Group that feel as passionately about this mission.  

Join us at our next meeting so together we can make a positive impact in the lives of Native American students at Tribal Colleges and Universities.  

There are so many different ways to support TCU students, its colleges, and the Native American population. My husband volunteered in the health clinic at the Navajo Reservation located in Window Rock, Arizona. If you are not able to join our TCU Affinity Group meeting, please share your thoughts by email: or join one of the other Affinity Groups NACE has to offer. 


Several links for more information: 

U.S. Department of the Interior – Indian Affairs FAQ questions on tribes 

Tribal Colleges and Universities List 

Map and List of Tribal Colleges List 



09-29-2020 13:39

Great information! Thank you for sharing this.