Kurt Peters has fostered educational opportunities for Native Americans and established close ties between OSU and Oregon’s Native American communities.
Kurt Peters is the son of a Blackfoot-German father and a Pohatan-Scottish-Irish mother. He grew up in Oklahoma among Sac, Fox, Pawnee and Otoe communities.
Then he spent 22 years as a financial planner for a national investment company. Eventually though, he found himself longing for a return to his roots.
So he earned a doctorate and decided to find an academic career that involved working with Native American communities.
About that time, Oregon State was creating its Department of Ethnic Studies, and in 1996 Peters became one of the first two faculty members in the department.
When Peters arrived, OSU had regular contact with only one or two of the nine federally recognized tribes in Oregon. Today, the university has educational, cultural, and economic ties with all of them.
Peters has been involved in establishing the Native American Collaborative Institute, which provides a focal point for building tribal relationships, and is active in a proposed Virtual Tribal College that will facilitate OSU attendance by Oregon Native Americans through the Extended Campus program.
Peters has been chosen as a member of the College of Liberal Arts Master Teachers program, which is designed to use experienced and talented faculty to teach first-year discovery courses. He also is active in teaching ethnic studies courses and conducts research on the 20th century Native American experience and Native American labor.
He teaches courses for and with tribes and has taken his ethnic studies classes to tribal communities.
“A lot of the students have never been to a tribal community, and what they learn is that Native American people have the same interests, hopes, and aspirations of any other community — a good clean place to live, a healthy environment, a relevant education and financial security,” he says.
“The only difference is that those desires are tempered by cultural matters that have been molded by a history and culture that are a little different than the one with which most students are familiar.”