Date of Award

Spring 2018

Document Type

Honors Thesis


Political Science

First Advisor

Mr. Marshall Damgaard

Second Advisor

Dr. Kathryn Birkeland

Third Advisor

Angela Kennecke


GEAR UP, education, Native American students, conflict of interest


The State of South Dakota has a significant educational achievement gap between Native American students and non-Native students. In 2005 and 2011, the State of South Dakota submitted successful applications to receive the federal education grant GEAR UP. The specific goal of the GEAR UP grant was to increase the number of Native American students who entered and succeeded in postsecondary education. After Scott Westerhuis tragically murdered his family and committed suicide in 2015, the conflicts of interest and mismanagement of the GEAR UP grant by the Mid-Central Educational Cooperative became apparent. The aim of this thesis is to define the chronological timeline of the GEAR UP grant in South Dakota and factually examine the relationships between and among individuals who administered and provided services for the grant. Questions about proper evaluation, lack of oversight and accountability, and conflicts of interest arise. The conclusion of this thesis argues that while millions of dollars were spent on the GEAR UP program since 2005, the number of Native American students enrolled in South Dakota Board of Regents institutions has barely fluctuated.



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