WILLOW proposes a model similar to nature’s Willow. The Salix Genus species of trees and bushes are important to many Native American cultures. There are over four hundred species of willows, also called “sallows” or “osiers,” and which contain the anti-inflammatory agent Salicin, the original ingredient of aspirin. In a number of Native American cultures, Willows symbolize inner wisdom; an open mind with the stability and strength of age and experience. Willows represent flexibility and adaptation, surviving and thriving in challenging conditions.

WILLOW follows the 6R’s, both in implementation and in measuring success, a culturally appropriate system where each Native faculty will be nurtured through the three WILLOW components described here, as well as with Respect, Relevance, Responsibility, Reciprocity, Representation, and Relationship (Baskin, 2005; Kirkness & Barnhardt, 1991; Restoule, 2006).

Each institution will maintain "respect . . . [for] what they bring in the way of cultural knowledge, traditions and core values (p. 6)," relevance of "indigenous knowledge and skills, or as Goody (1982) has put it, to foster "a re-valuation of forms of knowledge that are not derived from books (p. 8)," reciprocal relationships that provide for "two-way processes . . . [that] opens up new levels of understanding for everyone (p. 10)", and the responsibility to provide a forum that goes beyond "gaining an education [professional experience] — it also means gaining access to power, authority, and an opportunity to exercise control over the affairs of everyday life, affairs that are usually taken for granted by most non-Native people (p. 11)" (Kirkness & Barnhardt, 1991).

The overall philosophy that guides the adaptation process is based on the 6R’s, six fundamental values of an indigenous worldview. The model adapts existing programs that have shown success in the education and transition to workforce of underrepresented populations.

Willow drawing
The three interconnected components focusing on the support for Native American Faculty in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (NAF-STEM) are: Institutional support program (ISP-roots), Indigenous mentoring program (IMP-branches), and Research publication and grant preparation program (RPGP-leaves).