Bylaws of The American Indian and Indigenous Studies Program at Michigan State University

adopted 04/11/2012 

revised 3/8/2017

1.0 Definition of American Indian and Indigenous Studies Program (AIIS)

The American Indian and Indigenous Studies Program (AIIS) is an interdisciplinary program in the Co llege of Arts & Letters (CAL) at Michigan State University. AIIS consists of a faculty, an undergraduate minor and its students, a graduate certificate and its students, as well as programs and events consistent with our mission.


To form an understanding of American Indian and Indigenous cultures and identities, the place of American Indian and Indigenous people in today’s world, and the changing demands of American Indian and Indigenous peoples in the pursuit of cross-cultural diversity. We believe these are issues that transcend traditional boundaries between academic disciplines.

2.0 Governance

The AIIS is overseen by a director who reports directly to the Dean of CAL. The director is advised by the AIIS faculty as a whole.

2.1  Responsibilities of the Director

The Director provides innovative leadership and a clear vision for the future, promotes principles of diversity, and seeks to build an open and inclusive climate for the program. The Director is responsible for the management of the program and all its activities. This includes:

  • guiding the program’s strategic planning process (in collaboration with the Dean and AIIS faculty) and overseeing the implementation of that strategic plan;
  • preparing and administering the program budget, ensuring that funds are spent in accordance with its mission and with University policies;
  • advising students enrolled in the undergraduate minor;
  • maintaining active and accurate databases – of undergraduates in the minor, graduate affiliates, faculty, and affiliated staff, including their areas of study and their achievements;
  • insuring that faculty meetings are held in accordance with program bylaws, and that matters requiring a vote by faculty are discussed broadly;
  • insuring that voting on program issues takes place in a manner which allows all active AIIS faculty to vote (either through secure e-voting or other secure balloting processes); overseeing regular program tasks such as the appointment of the AIIS Graduate Assistant, event programming, selection of Predoctoral fellows (when applicable), and annual celebratory events;
  • engaging in additional activities as the Director sees fit to accomplish his/her duties.

2.1.1  Appointment of the Director

The AIIS Director is appointed by the Dean of CAL, in accordance with College By-Laws, after consultation with members of the AIIS program through a process vetted by AIIS faculty and approved by the Dean. Appointment is typically for a period of three years, renewable once with the consent of the AIIS faculty (see Section 2.1.2.a below).

2.1.2  Reappointment of the Director

During the Spring semester of the second year of the Director’s first appointment period, s/he should inform the Dean regarding whether s/he wishes to continue serving for a second administrative term.

2.1.2.a  If the Director wishes to serve for a second term, then the AIIS faculty elect a subcommittee, including one undergraduate and one graduate student member, to solicit evaluations of the Director as per the process described in 2.1.2.b below. The subcommittee will invite all members of the AIIS program to submit written evaluations of the Director. The subcommittee will compile and review these evaluations in order to forward a summary of them to the Dean, along with their overall recommendation regarding reappointment of the Director for a second term.

2.1.2.b  Review of the Director will be conducted during the Fall semester of the third year of his/her first appointment period and is understood to be for the purposes of reappointment only. Review will be conducted by the subcommittee described in 2.1.2.a above.

2.1.2.c  If the Director does not wish to serve for a second term, or in the event that the Dean chooses not to reappoint the current Director, then the Dean initiates a search for a new Director. The Dean appoints a subcommittee of four AIIS faculty – insuring representation across all of the colleges participating in AIIS – plus one undergraduate student and one graduate student. The subcommittee collects feedback on all applicants to the position, according to a process vetted by the AIIS faculty and approved by the Dean, and makes recommendations as to the qualifications of all applicants to the Dean.

2.2  Meetings

At least four regular, face-to-face, AIIS faculty meetings will be held during each academic year so that regular program issues can be discussed and important issues posed. Meetings are initiated by the Director or, under special circumstances, the faculty.

Any “voting” held during an AIIS faculty meeting will only be in the form of voting on motions to move issues to a secure AIIS faculty vote in accordance with Section 2.3 below.

2.3  Voting

Because AIIS faculty and affiliated academic specialists are a large and diverse group with many obligations to other units across campus, voting on all major issues will take place either through a secure electronic voting mechanism or through a secure balloting procedure that allows all active faculty to vote. Major issues include: program governance, responsibilities of the Director, appointment and reappointment of the Director, regularity of meetings, a change in voting procedures, regular review of the bylaws, amending the bylaws, a change in the definition of AIIS faculty and affiliated academic specialists (and of “active” faculty), the undergraduate minor, graduate affiliates, funding procedures, and other issues of substantial importance to the sustainability and continuance of the Program.

2.4  Regular Review of the Bylaws

The AIIS bylaws will be reviewed on a regular basis to insure that they are kept up to date and pertinent to the continuing activities of the Program. Review will occur every four years, conducted by a subcommittee of members, selected by the Director in consultation with the AIIS faculty.

2.5  Amending the Bylaws

Proposed amendments will usually be generated by the Bylaws Review Subcommittee but, on some occasions, may be suggested by AIIS faculty on an ad hoc basis. Proposed amendments must be circulated, in writing, to AIIS faculty at least (4) weeks in advance of the faculty meeting at which they are to be discussed. At that meeting, proposed amendments must be moved and approved for a faculty vote. Such a vote will be held in accordance with Section 2.3 above. Amendments to the AIIS Bylaws are made through a 2/3 majority vote of the membership.

3.0  Definition of AIIS Faculty and affiliated Academic Specialists

AIIS determines who will be considered a member through a process of application and evaluation. Qualifications for membership include: tenure-stream faculty, fixed-term faculty, or academic specialists who have scholarly expertise in American Indian/Indigenous studies as defined by academic preparation, teaching experience, publication and/or research interest. An AIIS member must nominate eligible faculty and staff for membership via a written letter of nomination accompanied by the candidate’s current curriculum vitae. Nominations are evaluated by the entire AIIS members. Candidates who receive a majority of votes cast will be invited to become AIIS members.

AIIS regular faculty and academic specialists must actively participate in the activities of the program. Active participation includes regular attendance at meetings (or regular communication with the Director if one’s schedule prevents one from attending meetings), regular participation in discussion of program issues, voting on matters as necessary, regularly responding to communications from the Director, and regular attendance at AIIS events.

4.0  The Undergraduate Program

AIIS offers an interdisciplinary undergraduate minor that broadens students’ knowledge of American Indian and Indigenous cultures and identities; emphasizes the significance of Indigenous peoples and knowledge both historically and contemporarily; and enhances students’ awareness of cross-cultural diversity.  Enrollment in the minor, which is open to all undergraduates, requires the written approval of the AIIS director. The minor is completed while a student is enrolled in a separate degree-granting program. Students enrolled in the undergraduate program are considered to be members of the AIIS program.

5.0 Graduate Certificate

AIIS supports and offers course work for graduate students across a wide range of disciplines and departments. Doctoral and Masters students affiliate with AIIS as an area of interest in conjunction with their major fields of study. AIIS supports graduate student research and travel to conferences. By stressing the interrelationship of academia and community, our support of graduate affiliates creates strong scholars and a sustainable commitment to both American Indian Studies and Indigenous communities.

In order to become a graduate affiliate of AIIS, students with an AIIS-appropriate program of coursework must be nominated by their advisor to the Director. Graduate affiliates are considered to be members of the AIIS program.

AIIS Operating Procedures

The procedures codified herein are not part of the formal AIIS bylaws but reflect current practices around which there is substantial agreement among the members. Substantial changes to these procedures should be undertaken only with a full review of the membership.

A. Meetings

While AIIS meetings do not follow formal parliamentary procedures, they do observe some informal processes like motions for approval of budget items and to move an issue to a formal AIIS faculty vote.

B. Regular Subcommittees

Predoctoral Fellowship Selection Committee

All AIIS faculty members may serve on this committee simply by reading the fellowship application files and attending the selection meeting.

Graduation Celebration & Fall Welcome Subcommittee

A subcommittee of 2-4 faculty members plus an undergraduate and/or graduate student may be appointed by the Director to organize, advertise and oversee both of these program events.

C. Travel Policy

AIIS will fund travel for active faculty, and for undergraduate and graduate student travel with faculty sponsorship from current budgeted and endowment funds:

  1. If conducting research for book, chapter, article, or other scholarly work in the area of American Indian and Indigenous Studies.
  2. If attending a conference and presenting a paper in the area of American Indian and Indigenous Studies.

AIIS travel authorization is determined by the following criteria and procedures:

  1. AIIS faculty must have applied for all available departmental or home unit travel funds before AIIS funds become available to them.
  2. Either through email contact or by submitting a Travel Application Form, AIIS members must apply for AIIS travel to the Director by October 15th of the current year and must include a copy of their current curriculum vitae with that application.
  3. Independent faculty and graduate student travel is limited by the amount apportioned in the yearly budget.
  4. Travel funds are available after the current AY’s projected costs for programming and other AIIS initiatives are determined.
  5. All undergraduate and graduate students must have an AIIS faculty sponsor for authorized travel. Graduate students must be affiliated with AIIS and undergraduate AIIS minors will be privileged over other student requests.
  6. On a rotating basis, AIIS will fund travel for the annual American Indian/Alaska Native Professor’s meeting, the National American Indian Studies Association, and at least one conference/gathering of the Wordcraft Circle of Native Writers and Storytellers.
  7. AIIS faculty must be active participants as defined in section 3.0 of the bylaws in order to request and receive travel support.

D.  Duties of the AIIS Graduate Assistant

Assist the Director in all of his/her duties

  • Attend all faculty meetings and take minutes
  • Make arrangements for programming and events, including reserving space
  • Attend program and major open houses/career fairs

Maintain AIIS office

  • Answer phone calls and emails, referring to the Director as needed
  • Maintain AIIS web site and list serve, updating as necessary
  • Schedule office hours according to terms of appointment
  • Maintain a clean and efficient office, along with equipment
  • Notify the Director when supplies are needed

Assist with publicity and communication

  • Maintain AIIS web site and list serve, updating as necessary
  • Establish and maintain databases as deemed warranted
  • Visit classes to promote AIIS program/minor

– ADOPTED 04.11.12 (revised 3/8/17)