College of Education > Department of Education Policy Studies > American Indian Leadership Program

American Indian Leadership Program

Graduates are expected to step up to a higher level of service in Indian education, joining other "Penn Staters" who are leading the way throughout the U.S.

Program Objectives

  • To develop individual leadership that will be able to support intellectual development, create positive change, function in complex environments, and help to define and shape the future of American Indians and Alaska Natives and their communities.

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    Group picture of AILP students
    To provide education for the development of qualified leaders, planners, and administrators for tribal or public schools serving Indian children, and other organizations, colleges, institutions or government agencies concerned with the education of Indian people.
  • To provide high-level training for managers qualified to develop and administer specialized programs in education that would better serve the unique needs of exceptional Indian children.

  • To provide training in educational research and evaluation in Indian education with an emphasis on community development and policy analysis.

Our graduates hold positions as...

  • Administrators of contract schools, Indian community colleges, Bureau of Indian Education schools, other tribal or public schools serving Indian children

  • Administrators in organizations, institutions or government agencies concerned with the education of Indian people

  • Educational planners for tribal organizations, the Bureau of Indian Affairs, state and federal Indian education agencies and educational organizations serving American Indian and Alaska Native students.



In the summer of 1970, seventeen Indian graduate students from throughout the United States arrived at Penn State University to become the first participants in the American Indian Leadership Program. To date, more than 200 students from numerous tribes and geographic locations throughout North America have participated in the program.

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AILP with Sandy Grande
The American Indian Leadership Program is housed in Penn State's College of Education, Department of Education Policy Studies. Founded in 1970, it is one of the oldest and most successful programs of its kind. The training of qualified leaders for service to Indian nations is the central aim of the American Indian Leadership Program. The objectives are consistent with the goals of the Indian Education Act and the needs of American Indian communities nationwide. The strength of the program is confirmed by the many and varied roles past participants play in the quest for improvement of educational opportunities for American Indian school children.

The faculty, staff, administration, and a vast majority of its more than 200 graduates believe that the AILP at Penn State is the best graduate training program for Indians in this country. Why? There are a number of programs around the country that are similar to Penn State's program. A few of them offer more financial aid; most are closer to Indian country; many have more Indian students, but Penn State simply does more to develop leaders.

Research has shown that leaders are not born, but made, sparked and nurtured through planned, meaningful experience. In the 40 years of the Penn State program, a unique mix of location, quality of academic programs and commitment of faculty, proximity to the nation's capital, and focused exploration in a special Indian education seminar, have combined to foster real leadership. In fact, more than 80 percent of the Indian students who have entered the AILP have graduated, compared to the 50 percent average nationwide.

While on campus, the Indian student is challenged to excel academically, think independently, and become a problem-solver who is unafraid to reexamine old assumptions and look at systems critically.