Mentor Name:
José Gutiérrez

Mentor Position:
Assistant Professor

Education, Culture & Society



Project Description:

**This project is a part of the Summer Program for Undergraduate Research (SPUR), which provides undergraduate students with an intensive 10-week research experience under the mentorship of a University of Utah faculty member. SPUR 2022 begins on May 25 and ends on August 4. If you are interested in this project, please review all program information on the SPUR site. If you wish to apply to this project, you must apply using the SPUR 2022 application.**

American Indian boarding schools (IBS) have been in the national spotlight as the U.S. continues to reckon with its history of racism, including forced assimilation through education. The U.S. established and operated dozens of off-reservation boarding schools from the late 1800s through the 20th century. According to Capt. Richard H. Pratt, the founder of the Carlisle Indian Industrial School, the goal of these institutions was simple: “kill the Indian, and save the man.”

Previous research has documented how IBS were designed to assimilate children into white American society. Some of the methods used to achieve this goal include separating children from their families and communities, replacing Indigenous languages, religious conversion, and gendered labor/training (Lomawaima, 2004). Previous studies have focused on the boarding school experience and curriculum, policies, and practices that prompted assimilationist goals. Additionally, recent scholarship is exploring the intergenerational impact of IBS on Indigenous communities today.

However, no research has examined the mathematics curriculum in Indian boarding schools and how it was used to enforce U.S. citizenship and values. The main research question guiding this project is: How did the mathematics curriculum in Indian boarding schools during 1879-1932 promote federal assimilationist goals? This period is significant because it covers the beginning of the boarding school program and the Land Allotment and Assimilation era in United States history.

Lomawaima, T. (2004). Educating Native Americans. In J. Banks & C. A. Banks (Eds.), Handbook of research on multicultural education (pp. 441–461).

Opportunity Type:

This is a paid research position

Student Role:

Our research team has built an archive consisting of hundreds of historical documents and photographs related to the curriculum, policies, and practices in Indian boarding schools during our period of study. The student’s role will consist of two main activities. First, the student will conduct a literature review of research articles from mathematics education, Indigenous studies, and educational history and write memos summarizing and connecting key findings to our project. The student will be guided to produce analytic memos, short write-ups about what they are learning from the literature, with a close eye on how concepts can be applied to our data analysis. Analytic memos play a vital role in our qualitative study of mathematics policy and practices in IBS; they serve as the basis of our analysis, and their content can be edited and used for published reports. Second, the student will read and analyze primary documents related to the math instruction in IBS and contribute to the development of a project coding manual. Critical discourse analysis and coding of historical documents require an iterative process of close reading, reflection, and evaluation. Ultimately, reading the literature, writing memos, and analyzing data are enormously time-consuming activities that will take most of the student’s time over the summer. Time permitting, we also hope to organize and co-host a workshop (or webinar). This workshop will be co-hosted with local tribal leaders for community members and local math educators. We will cater our presentations to our specific audience to present the main findings, share ideas, and create a dialogue about improving mathematics education for Native American students in Utah.

Student Benefits:

Overall, the student will be supported in articulating a line of inquiry that aligns with the goals of the project, identifying relevant questions from the literature, and developing the methods (e.g., a code/subcodes with definitions and examples that one could apply to the data corpus) to pursue their questions. The student will receive training on conducting qualitative analyses of archival materials and Indigenous research methods, including anticolonial frameworks, awareness of Indigenous epistemologies, and critical visual analysis of all materials collected. Given the project’s interdisciplinary nature, the student will participate in a broad range of research methods and approaches, with attention paid to training the student on specific techniques and how to apply them to mathematical settings.

Project Duration:

35-40 hours per week on research and program-related activities, begins May 25, 2022, and ends August 4, 2022

Minimum Requirements:

Admission to the program is competitive. Applicants must meet all of the following criteria: 1) be a matriculated, degree-seeking undergraduate student in the Fall 2022 semester (beginning or continuing college career in Fall 2022 and not graduating before December 2022; concurrent enrollment while in high school does not meet this eligibility requirement). Applicants do not need to be a University of Utah student. 2) eligible to work in the United States: If you are a University of Utah Dreamer (with or without DACA), you are eligible to participate. U Dreamers with DACA will be hired and paid through U payroll. U Dreamers without DACA who graduated from a Utah high school will be compensated via a different mechanism. If you are a Dreamer from a different institution: If you have DACA, you are eligible to participate and will be hired and paid though U payroll. If you do not have DACA, you are able to participate and gain research experience, but we do not currently have a mechanism that allows us to compensate you. For more information, please contact Megan Shannahan at megan.shannahan@utah.edu or 801-581-2478. If you are an international student or scholar, you must either a) be a degree-seeking undergraduate student at the University of Utah, OR b) possess documentation that establishes your eligibility to work in the United States (if you hold US citizenship, it is likely you have these documents). 3) able to commit to approximately 35-40 hours per week of employment at the University of Utah for the entire duration of the program (May 25-August 4, 2022). 4) at least 18 years old by May 23, 2022 (required if you wish to use on-campus housing; preferred if you will not be using on-campus housing).