Daniel Schwartz remarks that "At a personal level, I grew up among the reservations of northern Minnesota and witnessed the extraordinary barriers kids from the Red Lake Nation and Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe faced when it came to post-secondary education." Since his faculty appointment in 1991, Dr. Schwartz has been a leader at the University of Washington in expanding access to engineering programs and mentoring university students.
Beginning in 2005, Dr. Schwartz surmised that clean energy research could be a vehicle for developing a vertically integrated research, education, and mentoring network that would engage northwest energy resource tribes and tribal students, drawing them into advanced science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) degrees. Over the last decade, he has focused his considerable skill and dedication on developing an interdisciplinary graduate degree program that uses tribal clean energy research partnerships as a vehicle to attract new Native American participants in graduate degree programs offered through the University of Washington's College of the Environment and College of Engineering. Launched as an NSF Integrative Graduate Education and Research Traineeship project in 2007, and expanded through USDA and Washington State support, results for the first 33 students have been outstanding. To date, 19 Ph.D. degrees have been awarded, six of which were earned by underrepresented minorities (two Native Americans, two Hispanic Americans, one African American, and one Native Hawaiian). A robust partnership with Salish Kootenai College has created strong synergy and a student pipeline for summer research experiences and graduate school.
Student assessments show that the most influential element in the recruitment and success of these diverse students is the engagement with tribes that is enabled by year-long tribal case studies in which graduate students-in partnership with a tribe-conduct research projects led annually by Schwartz. The case study approach has the flexibility to produce scholarly products (publications, patents, and presentations on the social, environmental, technological, and economic aspects of clean energy) while also delivering decision support tools, engineering and resource management plans, and data cross-walks that the tribal partners can use. Ensuring that his mentees and research partners draw from the rich and diverse talent and experiences that America has to offer is an important component of his mentoring philosophy, as is guiding his students toward authentic societal needs from which they can craft meaningful research questions.
One tribal student-led start-up company has been formed, and other outcomes include federal fundraising by tribal departments using the products of student research. A 2010 NSF Tribal Renewable Energy Research Workshop was co-organized by Professor Schwartz to engage tribal students, scholars, and professionals in clean energy R&D. Shortly thereafter, the workshop was followed by the forming of a research subcommittee at the Intertribal Timber Council, where workshop momentum has been sustained. The important difference that Professor Schwartz is making in tribal communities was recognized by the University of Washington's Graduate School, which in 2015, bestowed its highest honor on him, the Marsh Landolt Distinguished Mentor Award.