Magazine article Diverse Issues in Higher Education

'On the Rez'

Magazine article Diverse Issues in Higher Education

'On the Rez'

Article excerpt

The American Indian College Fund's campaign brings donors to tribal colleges for first-person peek at what their money can do.

The American history Janet Robinson learned growing up in Schenectady, N.Y., in the 1950s presented "a pretty one-sided Anglo perspective" in which American Indians were generally the "bad guys" and English settlers were the "good guys."

Until recently, Robinson, a retired human resources professional who divides her time between Florida and Connecticut, admits that her knowledge of American Indian culture was derived from travels to places like Mesa Verde, CoIo., and from Tony Hillerman novels.

But last winter, Robinson happened upon an advertisement from the American Indian College Fund that set her on a journey to expand her understanding of Native culture as well as the role of tribal colleges. Grabbed by the bold image of the "If I Stay on the Rez" ads and the campaign's compelling statistics, she logged on to the College Fund's Web site and made a $300 donation on the spot.

The effective campaign was created by the award-winning ad agency Wieden+Kennedy, which has been donating its services to the AICF since 1991.

W+K co-founder David Kennedy designed six unique display ads, each featuring a tribal college student in the foreground, and a picturesque landscape in the background. Each one displays a different fact about enrollment in a college located on a reservation. "If I stay on the rez, I'm 60 percent more likely to transfer to a four-year university," says one. "If I stay on the rez, I'm eight times less likely to drop out of college," reads another.

Kennedy sees the campaign's success as a simple formula. "They all make a point of why the tribal colleges are beneficial to the students. We just used the statistics and put them in the mouths of students. They're hard facts served up in an engaging way," he says. "We just want the public to want to learn more. For a lot of these people, it's a lifesaver."

AICF has received more than $1 million in donated advertising space from magazines like Harper's and Fortune, enabling the organization to reach millions of readers and potential donors. Individual donations have ranged from $5 to as high as a $6 million bequest with property.

After making her initial contribution, Robinson was invited to one of AICF's "Journeys for the Mind and Spirit" tours. The organization has sponsored the annual trips since 1995 so donors and the public can learn more about Native lands and tribal colleges. …

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