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2009.04.30 > For Immediate Release
contact: Wendy Townley - University Relations
phone: 402.554.2762 - email: wtownley@unomaha.edu

Largest Native American Studies Graduating Class, Sheila Rocha to be Honored

Omaha - The largest graduating class since the inception of the University of Nebraska at Omaha (UNO) Native American Studies program will be honored at 7 p.m. Thursday, May 7. The faculty of the Native American Studies program (NAS) and the Native American Studies Alumni Association (NASAA) will host the Spring Honoring Ceremony in the Milo Bail Student Center Ballroom on the UNO campus. Urban Crew, a metro-based Native Drum, will provide entertainment.

The event is free and open to the public.

The Native American Studies program was established at UNO in 1992 and boasts nearly 150 alumni. NASAA was formed in 2008 by a core group of those alumni to assist and promote the Native American Studies program at UNO.

Twelve undergraduate students and one graduate student are graduating with Native American Studies’ minors. Undergraduate minors must complete a minimum of 18 credit hours (six classes) of coursework in Native American Studies; graduate minors must complete nine credit hours (three classes).

The graduates with Native American Studies Minors are: Michael Borkowski, Jacob Isom, James Isom, IanDaharsh, Grant Dunn, Sara Haas, Andrew Bauer, Robin Johnson, Cate Malone, Sheila Rocha, Nicole Cantrell, Rhiannon Stillinger and Angela Blake.

Native American Studies regularly offers coursework in federal Indian law and tribal governments, as well as Native American literatures, histories, religions, and cultures. Specialty courses include: Native American Film, Indian Child Welfare Act, Indian Mascots, Asphalt Rez, Native American Environmentalism and Creative Spirit.

Approximately one in 10 UNO students (1,500-plus) take Native American Studies classes each year. Graduates come from all colleges and disciplines. This year’s graduating class includes three Native American students. The Native American Studies program is dedicated to the recruitment and retention of Native American students. UNO admissions for Native American students for the 2009-2010 academic year are up 44 percent.

Each spring semester, a distinguished individual from the Native community is honored by the NAS faculty.

This year’s community honoree will be Sheila Rocha, UNO alum and published writer, educator, theatrical producer and director. Rocha has a life-long commitment to the arts in Omaha.

Rocha established the “The Indigenous Collective of Theater and the Arts" (TICOTA), a non-profit organization. The organization seeks to support indigenous peoples in their artistic expression with the Omaha area. As the project manager she produced and directed two theatrical events: "Wiping Tears: Native Stories of Healing" (fall 2008) and "Sacred Sites: Honoring Native Lands" (spring 2008) through the auspices of TICOTA.

Both productions involved indigenous performers from the region including Nebraska and South Dakota. "Wiping Tears" invited audiences to share in the emotional and spiritual healing of the speakers who told personal stories on stage. "Sacred Sites" included a large cast of Native American speakers, actors and drummers participating in a mixture of personal stories and performances of excerpts from works by Allison Hedge Coke, Lois Beardslee, Hawk James and others.

For additional information, call Dr. Beth Ritter at (402) 554-3376.

* *

UNO is celebrating its 100th anniversary. The celebration recognizes the partnership among the City of Omaha, its citizens and UNO to build a vibrant and dynamic community. The centennial theme is “UNO: Central To Our City Since 1908.” This theme acknowledges the past contributions of UNO to the community and sets the stage for great things to come.

UNO, inaugurated in 1968, emerged from the Municipal University of Omaha, established in 1931, which grew out of the University of Omaha founded in 1908. For Centennial information, go to http://www.unomaha.edu/100/.

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