TAHLEQUAH, Okla. — Northeastern State University was awarded a $2.9 million federal grant to enhance its high-speed internet infrastructure and expand broadband access for students.

NSU is one of 61 minority-serving colleges and universities to be awarded funding through the Connecting Minority Communities Pilot Program.

“Northeastern State University is proud to receive the Connecting Minority Communities pilot program grant,” NSU President SteveTurner said. “Closing the digital divide among our students is key to the educational success of all who we serve.”

According to Tuner, around 36% of NSU students are Native American and 66% of students come from rural areas, with many receiving some form of federal and/or state financial aid.

The grant award will be used to fund the campus’ Project INVESTS (Inclusivity and Next-generation Vision to Expand Student and Teaching Success) initiative.

Part of the initiative calls for improving NSU’s remote education capacity through the purchase of 20 mobile Zoom carts, one large Zoom room and video capture software. Remote learning capacity will also be improved for NSU’s high school-to-college summer bridge program and expand the virtual services offered through NSU’s TRIO programs, which are designed to motivate and support students from disadvantaged backgrounds in their pursuit of a college degree.

NSU Chief Information Officer Dr. Richard Reif said the project will also improve broadband connectivity for students, faculty, staff and guests to NSU campuses by upgrading the core of the NSU network and by extending the network with additional Wi-Fi access points.

“The Wi-Fi access points will be concentrated in student facing areas such as Seminary Suites

and library areas,” Reif said. “A portion of the project will help train the Information Technology Services staff to support the new technology and improve our service excellence.”

NSU faculty will also be trained in digital and technical skills to increase the number of online courses available. In addition, funding will be used to expand faculty support for remote education. Reif said the project will also create internships in both the ITS and Center for Teaching and Learning departments to give students immersive-learning opportunities during their degree pursuit.

“This is a game changer,” Turner said. “It will allow us to do things more quickly than we would have ever dreamed without this funding. We live in a world now where everybody is connected and they want to be connected in real time. You shouldn’t be left out because of where you live.”