Martin Kidston

(Missoula Current) Cognizant-ATG on Thursday passed a $250,000 check to the University of Montana to boost two programs designed to increase the success of Native American students.

UM President Seth Bodnar announced the donation during a ribbon cutting on Cognizant's new office building near downtown Missoula. The funding goes to the Montana American Indians in Math and Science (AIMS) program, as well as the Indigenous First Year Experience program.

“These are significant initiatives that are tearing down barriers to success for Native students,” Bodnar said. “The support from Cognizant-ATG is going to supercharge that.”

The AIMS program reaches Native American students as early as the sixth grade and introduces them to the many disciplines at UM. The students connect with professors in the math and sciences, giving them insight to a future pathway in the fields.

Michelle Guzman, director of Native American Student Services at the University of Montana, right, welcomed the contribution by Cognizant. (Martin Kidston/Missoula Current)
Michelle Guzman, director of Native American Student Services at the University of Montana, right, welcomed the contribution by Cognizant. (Martin Kidston/Missoula Current)
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The first-year program also works with Native students to ensure they're successful during their freshman year and move on to completing their college degree. Bodnar said the program is working, as retention rates among Native students is growing.

“Since 2018, our Native American student enrollment has increased 26%,” Bodnar said. “Over that same period, our first to second year retention rate among Native students has increased 14 percentage points. That's tremendous growth.”

Cognizant-ATG has worked closely with UM over the past several years to develop talent to meet its growing workforce needs. The state has picked up on the concept and expanded it to other economic sectors.

“They could not be accomplishing what they're doing without the university,” Gov. Greg Gianforte said of Cognizant. “When you talk to business owners, the biggest thing they face is where they find talent. These partnerships really work. And I appreciate the work you're doing to reach out to our Native communities. Working together, we have to help all Montanans prosper.”

Bodnar said the university's mission “boils down to two words – inclusive prosperity.” He said Cognizant's donation fits the bill and will help grow the impact of its Native American programs.

“Inclusive prosperity means that our job is to help every single member of our community, from all backgrounds and walks of life, meet their unique full potential, and our job is to be an engine of economic growth for this city and this state,” Bodnar said.

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