The American Indian Graduate Spring 2013

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American Indian

GRADUATE Spring 2013

Inside this Issue: Special Issue on Internships! • President’s Message • A Message from the Director • The Udall Internship • NASA Postdoctoral Fellowship • Benny Shendo Jr. • Rainer Fellowship Recipients • Indian Law Policy • Teach For America

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Table of Contents

The American Indian Graduate Volume 12, Number 1

Volume 12, Number 1 • Spring 2013


Message from the President Paying Forward the Gifts from the Past

by David Mahooty, President, Board of Directors

A Publication of the American Indian Graduate Center 3701 San Mateo Blvd., NE, #200 Albuquerque, NM 87110 Phone: (505) 881-4584 Fax: (505) 884-0427 Website:


Publisher Sam Deloria, Director

Message from the Director The Power of Scholarship


The Udall Internship Transitioning from Undergraduate to Professional Networks:

The Morris K. Udall Native American Congressional Internship

by Cynthia Connolly


Editors Susan Duran Linda Niezgodzki Stephine Poston

by Sam Deloria

Production Editor Jim Weidlein Design and Layout Carolyn S. Tate

Reach For New Heights Launch Your Career with a NASA Postdoctoral Fellowship

by Dr. Robert D. Gibson, NPP Director and Dr. Larry D. Voorhees, NPP Director, Emeritus Oak Ridge Associated Universities

AIGC Board of Directors

The History of AI/AN in the Military (su·le·ta·wv este·cate) Serving American Indian and Alaska Native Service Members and Veterans

Grayson B. Noley, Vice President Choctaw

by Candice J. Craig Little Spring (wekiwa·chee)

12 14

Dee Ann DeRoin, M.D. Ioway Tribe of Kansas

AIGC Alumnus Becomes New Mexico’s First Pueblo Senator

by Stephine Poston

The Rainer Fellowship Leslie Costa-Guerra and Harold Kihega, Jr. Named 2012-2013 Rainer Fellowship Recipients

by Marveline Vallo Gabbard


Melanie P. Fritzsche, Secretary-Treasurer Pueblo of Laguna

From Pueblo to Senator Benny Shendo Jr.


David Mahooty, President Zuni

Institute for Broadening Participation Building Partnerships to Support Diversity in STEM

by Chris Cash

Michael E. Bird Kewa/Ohkay Owingeh Pueblo Rose Graham Navajo Danna R. Jackson Confederated Tribes of Salish & Kootenai

Cover: The Power of Scholarship

Continued on page 4

The American Indian Graduate


Table of Contents


Courage to Accomplish Your Dreams Contextual Wisdom at the Gates Millennium Scholars Freshman Leadership Conference

by Marveline Vallo Gabbard

by Stephine Poston

Fellowship Was a Dream Come True Strengthening the Voices of Our People by Extending Education Beyond the Classroom

Teach For America Addressing the Need for More Native Leaders in Classrooms

by Robert Cook

Accenture Scholarships Accenture American Indian Scholarship Recipients Announced for Academic Year 2012-2013




by Danya Carroll



ANAHSAT Award All Native American High School Academic Team Selected for the Academic Year 2012-2013 by Marveline Vallo Gabbard

Indian Law Policy Student Follows Internships With Innovative Online Program

by Jordan Harmon

Passion and Internships Turning an Internship into a Career

by Jennifer Coots Valdez

Serving My Community The Power of Higher Education to Promote Nation Building

by Daryl Melvin, P.E., CAPT. (ret.) United State Public Health Service



Guided By My Own Light Solar Systems of Support

by Tanaya Winder


Mentored Teaching Experience Taking Advantage of Non-Traditional Adventures

by Conner I. Sandefur


Spirit of E.A.G.L.E.S. Building the Pipeline for Cancer Control

by Dr. Judith Kaur



DOE Grant Award Approaching Life With Passion and Determination

by Staci Van Norman


Internship Benefits Take Advantage of Every Opportunity Possible

by Tamara James


Alumni Connection The Alumni Connection

by Susan Duran

Contact Us Mailing List: If you are not currently on our mailing list and would like to receive future issues, please call or write to the address below. Advertising: To advertise in The American Indian Graduate, please contact Linda Niezgodzki, or send an e-mail to: Article Submissions: Submit all articles to Stephine Poston, Consulting Editor, for consideration. E-mail: Reprints and Permissions: Reprints of published articles and/or artwork are prohibited without permission of the American Indian Graduate Center.


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American Indian Graduate Center, 3701 San Mateo Blvd., NE, #200 Albuquerque, NM 87110, (505) 881-4584 phone, (505) 884-0427 fax Visit us On-Line! 2013 AIGC, Inc. All rights reserved. Published submissions and advertisements do not necessarily reflect the view of AIGC, Inc.

Message from the President

Paying Forward the Gifts from the Past by David Mahooty, President, Board of Directors


iving back full circle. That was the topic of a recent AIGC public service announcement featuring AIGC alumni and their stories. You may check out the public service announcement by visiting http:// These former AIGC scholars recognize the value AIGC played in their educational experience and have returned to AIGC – now established in their professions – as resolute donors to the organization. They are paying forward the gifts from their past – scholarships and educational support – in order to afford other American Indian and Alaska Native students the opportunity to graduate with degrees in higher education. I am moved by these stories. As Native people, we are rooted in service to our community. If called upon – and many of us are – we selflessly give ourselves to serve in positions of tribal leadership, traditional leadership, community service or organizational advisement. We purposefully choose a path that leads, not to monetary rewards, but reimbursement in the form of a greater good. AIGC alumni have embraced this service to our nationwide community of AIGC scholars. This full circle giving started with aspiring physicians, engineers, attorneys, professors, entrepreneurs and a range of other careers and continues today, with established professionals working in cities and reservations, in law offices and with the land. Scholars are now sharing their knowledge in lecture halls filled to the brim with young minds. Doctors are now working in their communities and addressing health disparities. Lawyers are now leading cases that are changing the landscape for Native Americans and Alaska Natives nationwide. We come together, as graduates of this organization, to support and provide scholarships to current and future aspirers.

David Mahooty

Please join your AIGC peers in giving back. We make it simple to donate in any amount to AIGC. Please visit our website ( and click on the “Donate Now” button for information on how to keep your gift moving full circle. Over 89% of every dollar goes directly to scholarships and student services. I mean it when I say that every dollar makes a difference in the lives of AIGC students. I also want to take the opportunity to invite you to an AIGC reception on April 24th, 2013. Please watch for AIGC emails and announcements for information about this event. Thank you for being a part of the AIGC network. Together, we make up a powerhouse of supporters of bright American Indian and Alaska Native minds across the country. I ask you to join me in 2013 to pledge our continued support for these students; let’s commit to giving back full circle. ✦ Sincerely, David Mahooty

Thank you for being a part of the AIGC network. Together, we make up a powerhouse of supporters of bright American Indian and Alaska Native minds… . The American Indian Graduate


Message from the Director

The Power of Scholarship by Sam Deloria


here’s not a meeting, event or function that I don’t run into an AIGC alumnus/a, whether it be the Governor of a Pueblo, tribal court judge, a high ranking Bureau of Indian Education official, Presidential appointee, CEO of a non-profit, or an entrepreneur. There is so much to be said about providing American Indian and Alaska Native students scholarships for graduate or professional degrees. For the past few years, we have had the great pleasure of working with the Washburn family (Chickasaw) right here in Albuquerque. Libby, her two wonderful young sons with the coolest names, (Cole and Ford), and her husband, Kevin. Libby was most recently the Director of statewide operations for Senator Jeff Bingaman. She was also a long-time member of the AIGC/S Board of Directors, her tenure culminating in a too-short stint as President of the Board. Even after her board term expired, she continued to be an enthusiastic, effective and faithful supporter of our organization. Kevin Washburn worked at the University of New Mexico School of Law, where he was the very popular and effective dean – and also the first Indian dean at the school. He was recently appointed Assistant Secretary of Interior for Indian Affairs, which requires a move to Washington, D.C. for the Washburn family. We are grateful for his friendship as well, and the way in which he supported his wife’s work for us. We maintain a faint hope that they will come back this way some time. ✦ I complain a lot in this column about things that other people should be doing, and aren’t. This time, however, I am going to gripe about something that AIGC and I should be doing – and so should a lot of other people. In this information age, we need to put together systems that will facilitate communication among our tribes and communities and the institutions that serve them. We need to build a system accessible to our people, not


The American Indian Graduate

Sam Deloria

just young people, that will enable them to know about the opportunities open to them and how to choose the path that is right for their lives. It cannot be said that this is a time of limited opportunity for Indian and Native people. Far from it. At AIGC, we spend almost as much time trying to match students with opportunities as we do raising money for the students that we fund. This is not to say that scholarship resources are adequate. While the annual summation of opportunities continues to grow, the demand for scholarship support grows faster each year. It is unforgivable that so many of our young people feel hopeless about their lives, when there are more opportunities than ever. We don’t know what kinds of budget cuts may affect us this year, but we need to intensify our efforts to bring some organization to the information system about resources for post-secondary education for our people, young and not-so-young. So be looking for us on the so-called “social media” and any place else we can try to provide information conveniently to prospective college and grad students, and to encourage the young ones in elementary and high school to follow through. ✦

We kick off the New Year with the American Indian Graduate, and a look at the Power of Scholarship in this special issue on Internships. From the college freshman whose merit scholarship lets him or her experience college from the vantage of a dormitory room, to the young parent whose scholarship provides daycare while he or she pursues higher education, to the graduate student whose AIGC fellowship awards makes full-time study a reality: Financial resources – scholarships – are critical to successful higher education for most of our students. As educators and proponents of higher education, we understand the value of an advanced degree in the marketplace and in the community. Scholarships are often facilitators of dream achievement among bright and inspired students. For many tribal members and for most graduate school hopefuls, cost of higher education

may seem to be an insurmountable barrier. We call out to those of you who may be in a position to help our students with the daunting cost of higher education. We continue to seek your generous support to augment the resources that we receive from the federal government and make education achievable. We are fortunate to be joined in our efforts by tribal and private foundations, and continue to rely on the generosity of our alumni and other individuals who continue to support the scholarship program. With your help, 2013 will prove to be our best year yet in facilitating higher education achievement through financial support. ✦

The American Indian Graduate


The Udall Internship

Transitioning from Undergraduate to Professional Networks: The Morris K. Udall Native American Congressional Internship by Cynthia Connolly


n 1994, President Clinton signed Public Law 103324, thus reaffirming the Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians, located in Northern Michigan, as a sovereign Indian Nation. Our case was unique at the time, in that our tribe decided to forego the Bureau of Indian Affairs federal acknowledgement process and go straight for congressional reaffirmation. As a young girl, aged ten, I saw first-hand the trials and tribulations my leaders endured to ensure that our tribe was recognized by the United States government. Because of this experience, our tribe put law, public policy and advocacy at the center of tribal affairs. I attribute my passion to advocate for both my nation and Indian Country, as a whole, from growing up in this atmosphere. I was born into the crane clan on my mother’s side, in the land of the crooked tree, off Little Traverse Bay in Northern Michigan – a place now known as Harbor Springs and Petoskey, Michigan. However, I spent the majority of my life in Harper Woods, a small suburb, literally a baseball’s throw from the city of Detroit. My story begins in 2007, when I was fresh out of the University of Michigan, with a Bachelor of Arts in American Culture, with a focus in Native American Studies. I left my undergraduate career with a sense of pride that I was one of the first in my family to graduate from a major university and obtain a bachelor’s degree. While I was at the University of Michigan, I was highly involved with Native American student organizations, volunteered my time with our tribe as a youth representative for the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) and many other leadership positions, all of which were opportunities that allowed me the chance to hone very important leadership skills that would prove critical later. While I was representing my tribe at


The American Indian Graduate

Cynthia Connolly

NCAI, I was also exposed to a realm of tribal law and governance that fueled my interest for advocacy, policy analysis and research. However, my volunteer positions were not enough to put me ahead in the job market – a market that was soon to collapse shortly after my graduation. So, with my sense of pride and honor, I also left the University of Michigan with a large amount of student loan debt and very few career prospects. I wish I could tell a different side to this particular part of my story, but I feel that it is important to tell. Unemployment, after a highly successful and rewarding undergraduate career, is a striking reality for many of our young professionals, especially in today’s tight economy, where entry-level jobs are increasingly sparse and competitive. Rather than live as a struggling recent graduate, I began to tap into my networks for help and assistance. With the knowledge that I was deeply invested in advocacy and research for my people, I was forwarded an email regarding the Morris K. Udall Native American Congressional Internship Program. I knew immediately

that this internship would provide me with the opportunity to get a proverbial “foot in the door,” so I submitted my application straightaway. I recall it being a particularly warm April afternoon when I received the phone call from the program manager informing me that I was selected to serve as an Udall Intern.

After the conclusion of the Udall internship, I earned a Master of Public Administration and Nonprofit Management, at Cleveland State University in 2011, with a graduate fellowship provided by the American Indian Graduate Center. The statistics surrounding the percentage of Native Americans who hold advanced degrees are

The lessons learned, the skills gained and the people I met, during my summer with the Udall program, has proved more beneficial than any college course or amount of school work I could have ever completed. The summer months of 2008 were unlike anything I have ever experienced. I was placed with the Department of Education – Office of Indian Education, where I saw first-hand how to advocate for tribal communities, with regards to education, as well as how law and policy was carried out. Some of my fellow Udall interns were placed on Capitol Hill, where they listened in on congressional hearings and met with many leaders of both the United States and our tribal nations. In one particular case, a fellow Udall intern, Tracie Revis, had the opportunity to provide testimony to the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs regarding access to health services in Indian Country. To put it simply, the opportunities provided by the Udall internship are not opportunities that come with a registered college course. It is so critical for our youth, who are interested in tribal law, governance and advocacy to step outside of academia and into the thick of things. The Morris K. Udall Native American Congressional Internship does exactly that. Not only does the Udall program intentionally expose its interns to the vast networks in Washington D.C., it also provides participants with the opportunity to work and research alongside professionals. The program gave me the tools and professional experience that I was previously lacking – not exactly as resume builders, like my undergraduate student organization experience – but real, genuine professional experience that would allow me to not just become a “leader,” but become an effective leader. It is in my opinion that the Udall internship is designed to train and focus recent graduates, as they transition from undergraduate to professional networks. Whether or not the interns stay within the government sector – which was not the case in my particular story - but the lessons learned, the skills gained and the people I met, during my summer with the Udall program, has proved more beneficial than any college course or amount of school work I could have ever completed.

disheartening. I was excited to have the opportunity to both shift these statistics and to give back to my communities through research. It is through the support of organizations, such as AIGC, that allowed me to focus exclusively on my graduate studies and research without having to burden myself with unreasonable amounts of student loan debt. Furthermore, AIGC’s support has connected me to a network of not only other scholarships and funding opportunities, but other energetic young professionals looking to positively impact Indian County. The skills and education I have gained over the years allowed me to secure a position, as a program manager and grant writer, for a community development nonprofit in Cleveland, Ohio – my new hometown. I also remain active within the Cleveland Native American community, where I focus on high school tutoring, college application assistance, ACT/SAT preparation, and general mentoring, for those youth whose shoes I filled not too long ago. ✦

The American Indian Graduate is now available in electronic form. If you would prefer to receive an email copy of our publication, please let us know at

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Reach For New Heights

Launch Your Career with a NASA Postdoctoral Fellowship by Dr. Robert D. Gibson, NPP Director and Dr. Larry D. Voorhees, NPP Director, Emeritus Oak Ridge Associated Universities


he National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has offered postdoctoral fellowships for more than 50 years. These fellowships were available, from 1959 to 2005, through the National Research Council (NRC), as part of the NRC Research Associateship Program. In the Fall of 2005, NASA contracted with Oak Ridge Associated Universities to develop and administer the NASA Postdoctoral Program (NPP). Selected by a competitive peer-review process, NPP Fellows complete one- to three-year Fellowship awards that advance NASA’s goal to expand scientific understanding of the Earth and the universe in which we live. The fellowship program entails an in-resident appointment, in which the participant engages in research projects at a NASA Center, NASA Headquarters, or a NASA-affiliated research institute. The Fellow conducts research of national importance and collaborates with distinguished scholars from the United States and the international community. Applications for an NPP Fellowship are completed online at the NPP web site ( postdoc/application). Applicants must have a Ph.D., or equivalent degree, in hand, before beginning the fellowship, but may apply while completing the degree requirements. The first step for applying is to review the ‘Research Opportunities’ and contact the advisor associated with a research opportunity that matches the applicant’s skills and interests. There are more than 750 research opportunities listed on the NPP web site. A key part of the application is submitting a research proposal that relates to the research opportunity. Other components of the application are described on the web site.


The American Indian Graduate

Dr. Robert D. Gibson

Dr. Larry D. Voorhees

Holding an NPP Fellowship can have a significant impact on the participant’s future career. Nearly half (47%) of the NPP Fellows, who completed their appointments in FY 2012, are now employed at a NASA Center, either as a federal employee or as an employee of a contractor supporting the NASA Center and about 25% have been hired by colleges or universities. Nearly all (99%) of the Fellows feel that NPP enhanced their development as a scientist.

Holding an NPP Fellowship can have a significant impact on the participant’s future career. NPP Fellows contribute to national priorities for scientific exploration, confirm NASA’s leadership in fundamental research and complement the efforts of NASA’s partners in the national science community. Anyone who has an interest in supporting NASA’s vision “to reach for new heights and reveal the unknown, so that what we do and learn will benefit all humankind” is encouraged to apply for an NPP Fellowship. ✦

AIGC Scholarship Applications now available online at for the 2013 - 2014 academic year Attention High School Seniors! • All Native American High School Academic Team nominations and applications deadline is March 16, 2013 • Accenture American Indian Scholarship application deadline is April 27, 2013

Attention College Juniors! • Wells Fargo American Indian scholarship application deadline is April 27, 2013

Attention Graduate Students! • Wells Fargo American Indian scholarship application deadline is April 27, 2013 • AIGC Fellowship application deadline is June 3, 2013 • Loan for Service application deadline is June 4, 2013 All application materials must be submitted through the AIGC Online Application System (OAS) visit the AIGC website at To enter the Online Application System, click the APPLY NOW button found in various places on the AIGC website. Email all inquiries to:

The American Indian Graduate


The History of AI/AN in the Military (su·le·ta·w v este· cate)

Serving American Indian and Alaska Native Service Members and Veterans by Candice J. Craig Little Spring (wekiwa·chee)


here was only one grandfather whom I was blessed to know for the first 22 years of my life. Aside from being my personal hero and role model, Lee Craig, or as I called him, Papaw, was a U.S. Marine in World War II (WWII). He, his younger brother and oldest sister were among the 321 North Carolina Cherokee to serve in the military during the Great War. Many of my relatives, from my Papaw’s generation, paid their dues to their country with honor. My Papaw joined the Marines for more than his country; he joined for his family. Lee’s father, A World War I (WWI) veteran was often hospitalized due to mental and physical combat injuries, charging Lee to look after his mother and siblings. Lee’s younger brother, Carl, was a bright, fun-loving, care-free individual. All these attributes combined sometimes equaled trouble. My Papaw wanted the best for his brother and knew that Carl needed discipline that Lee couldn’t give him. That’s when my grandfather decided it would be best if they both joined the Marines. They fought together in 1944, in the Saipan & Marianas Islands, and in 1945, Kyushu, Japan. Both returned home safely and went on to successfully live out the American dream. Over the years, Papaw and I shared many deep conversations, peaceful silence and even a few tears. I cannot say that I know my Papaw’s time in the military made him a better man but, what I do know is that he was proud to be a Marine. As a Marine, his pride for his country was only rivaled by the pride he felt as an American Indian. As I got older, I started to realize that this pride for his country was not a rival but, in fact, one in the same. He was a modern day warrior. Soldiers with indigenous bloodlines exceed every other ethnic group, with the highest percentage of their people in military service (Viola, 2008). As early as the 1750’s, George Washington saw that American Indians


The American Indian Graduate

would be integral partners in America’s most memorable military successes (American Indians and the U.S. Military, n.d.). The last battle, of the War of 1812, was the Battle of New Orleans and American Indians fought the British with Andrew Jackson. Also, less publicized numbers of the Civil War include 20,000 American Indians who served in the Union and Confederate forces. At the right hand of Ulysses S. Grant, was a Seneca man by the man of Ely Parker. Parker constructed the official papers of surrender for Robert E. Lee.

As a Marine, his pride for his country was only rivaled by the pride he felt as an American Indian. In World War I, many of the 12,000 American Indians who served enlisted voluntarily, before the Selective Service Act of May 1917, despite the fact they were not formally recognized as American citizens (Camurat, 1993). By World War II (WWII), the

1924 Indian Citizenship Act required American Indian men to register for the draft. Some tribes believed this requirement violated their rights as sovereign nations, but it did not keep 44,000 from declaring war on the Axis Powers (Way of the Warrior, 2007). Additional notable military representation, for American Indians and Alaska Natives (AI/AN) in the last century, include the 10,000 -15,000 who fought against communism in the Korean War, the 86,000 who served during the Vietnam era, as well as participating in action in Grenada, the Panama Military Operation, Somalia and the Gulf War. During the Vietnam War, 90% of service members with AI/AN heritage served voluntarily and over half saw combat (Holms, 1996). Today, more than 22,000 American Indians continue to volunteer to wear our nation’s uniform on various frontiers around the globe. As of March 2012, the Pentagon estimates that 64 American Indians and Alaskan Natives have died fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq conflicts since 2001. With the little that is known about AI/ANs military service, even less recognition is given to the AI/ AN women service members and veterans. As far back as the American Revolution, American Indian women have engaged in battle alongside their male counterparts (Bellafaire, n.d.). Throughout history, nearly 35,000 AI/ AN women have served in various roles of the armed forces (US Census Bureau, 2010). Native women were significant contributors to the Army Nurse Corps in WWI and, in WWII, 800 AI/AN females transitioned into more combat- oriented positions. Women continued to answer our nation’s call for service during the Korean and Vietnam Wars. As of 1980, the only members of the

National Guard, who were continuously active, were over 60 women serving in the Eskimo Scouts, who patrol the Alaska and Russia coastline (Bellafaire, n.d.). In many respects, AI/AN women are no different from others who volunteer for military service. Many female service members have given their lives; Lori Piestewa, a Hopi Indian from Arizona, was one of the first casualties of the Iraq War. AI/AN women represent 10% of the 181,000 AI/ AN veterans – a rate that is almost twice the national average (Department of Veteran Affairs, 2006). My Papaw, Lee Craig, touched my life and the lives of others by being a warrior, helping to make the world a better place. In honoring Papaw’s accomplishments, as a Native warrior, I will complete my Masters in Social Work (MSW), as a Kathryn M. Buder Scholar, at George Warren Brown School of Social Work at Washington University in St. Louis and work towards becoming a Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW). As an LCSW, I will provide mental health services to American Indian and Alaskan Native veterans who are on their journey towards better overall well being. ✦

“… everything on the earth has a purpose, every disease an herb to cure it and every person a mission. This is the Indian theory of existence.” – Mourning Dove Salish Candice J. Craig Little Spring (wekiwa·chee) is from the Muskogee (Creek) Nation, Oklahoma Seminole, & Eastern Band Cherokee. She is a Kathryn M. Buder Scholar from the George Warren Brown School of Social Work at Washington University in St. Louis.

New AIGC Video is now on You Tube! “Giving Back Comes Full Circle” Please take a few minutes to watch the new AIGC video on You Tube; you may see some AIGC alumni you know! Shenan Atcitty, AIGC alumna, who is one speaker on the video, was recognized and honored during the 2012 AIGC Reception. In the video, Ms. Atcitty stated, “Whereas I started from a position of needing money, now, largely because of AIGC, I can give money. I am a regular donor and this brings things full circle”.

The video may be viewed at Shenan Atcitty

The American Indian Graduate


From Pueblo to Senator

Benny Shendo Jr. AIGC Alumnus Becomes New Mexico’s First Pueblo Senator by Stephine Poston


n the 1960s, Mrs. Margaret Shendo worked as a teacher’s aide in Jemez Pueblo, for N. Scott Momaday (Kiowa Tribe of Oklahoma). Through his encouragement to further her education, Mrs. Shendo enrolled at the University of New Mexico. After having eight children, with the support of her late husband, Benny Shendo Sr., Margaret earned her Bachelor’s degree in teaching from the University of New Mexico. Momaday had attended the San Diego Mission School in Jemez Pueblo with Benny’s father and would become a Pulitzer Prize winner, in 1969, for his novel, House Made of Dawn (based on running in Jemez Pueblo). Ah, the power of influencers. Outside the classroom, Mrs. Shendo continued to raise her family. Her son, Benny, watched as she juggled a family, a career and a college education. At a time when a college degree was rare, his mother persevered until she reached her goal. Benny would carry this first-generation achievement into a second generation, when he graduated with a Bachelor of Science from the University of Colorado, Boulder in 1987. Shortly thereafter, with the help of an AIGC scholarship, he entered the University of Colorado, School of Law. Benny explains that his mother’s achievements in college helped define the role of education in his own life. “That’s why education is so important to me. I support AIGC financially because we need to make sure that there are resources for other kids to continue to fulfill their educational paths.” Like his mother, Benny undertook each opportunity with tenacity and fortitude. He served as 1st Lt. Governor, for the Pueblo of Jemez, in 2002 and 2009; and 2nd Lt. Governor, for the Pueblo of Jemez, in 1998. From 2004 to 2007, Benny served as Cabinet Secretary for the State of New Mexico Indian Affairs Department, the first and only cabinet-level state Indian


The American Indian Graduate

Benny Shendo Jr.

affairs department in the nation. Additionally, he was a Kellogg Fellow 1997-2000 XVI (16) and spent 18 years in higher education at Colorado, UNM and Stanford, as the Assistant Dean of Students. In 2012, Benny took the stage for perhaps one of his most important roles – Senator for the New Mexico State Legislature. Representing Senate District 22, which includes 18 Navajo Nation Chapters, seven Pueblos (Cochiti, Jemez, Zia, Santa Ana, San Felipe, Laguna and Kewa/Santo Domingo) and the Jicarilla Apache Nation, Benny became the first Pueblo person to hold a Senate seat in New Mexico.

We are seeing a change in dynamics in state governments, because more and more Indian people are running for office. “It is really important that Native Americans have representation at the state legislative level,” said Benny. “In some of the states that have large Native populations, we are seeing a change in dynamics in state governments, because more and more Indian people are running for

office. We are now able to change the course of dialogue in what is happening.” This dialogue is significant, considering that Native Americans in New Mexico did not gain the right to vote until 1948, when Miguel Trujillo, a World War II veteran and member of the Pueblo of Isleta, fought for civil rights on behalf of all New Mexico Native Americans. Benny’s priorities over his Senate term would make his mother proud. “There is so much needed in Indian Country. Education will always be a priority. Investment in early childhood education is critical,” Benny says. “Economic development in rural areas is also key. We need to do a better job on renewable energy.” With the example of a strong-willed mother, Benny has made a lifetime of achievements in public service. Offering a piece of advice to others considering running for office, Benny says, “It takes a lot to get into public service. You put yourself, your family and your community out there. It is a lot of work. People who are really interested in public service have to know that they are doing it American Indian Graduate for the people and not for themselves.”Center (AIGC) Ad Benny insists it was his parents and grandparents who

instilled the importance of education in him. As he explains, his mother created the legacy of obtaining a college education in the Shendo family and it was important that he fulfill that legacy for a second generation. His mother’s tradition continues today, says Benny. “My daughter graduated from the University of Colorado in Boulder Benny Shendo Jr. and my son graduated from New Mexico State University in December of 2012. They are the third generation of college graduates in the family.” Benny has two children, Eileen and Benjamin Shendo, and three grandsons, Wequai, Nuhkon, and Sequan. Congratulations Senator Benny Shendo – AIGC is proud to have played a small part in your achievements! ✦

The Buder Center for American Indian Studies is a premier graduate program in Social Work. We are committed to preparing and supporting future American Indian leaders to practice in tribal and urban settings, making significant contributions to health, wellness, and the sustained future of Indian Country The Buder Center’s Program: 

Provides opportunities for full scholarships to American Indian/Alaska Natives from the Kathryn M. Buder Charitable Foundation


Offers a flexible curriculum that allows you to customize your course of study


Presents course work focused on American Indian culture and values


Assists with securing your practicum through our established network of sites within American Indian communities


Provides assistance in career and professional development


Offers dual degree programs with architecture, business, law, divinity, and public health

Molly Tovar, Director One Brookings Drive Campus Box 1196, St. Louis, MO 63130 E-mail: Phone: (314) 935-4510 Fax: (314) 935-8464 Website:

The American Indian Graduate


The Rainer Fellowship

Leslie Costa-Guerra and Harold Kihega, Jr. Named 2012-2013 Rainer Fellowship Recipients by Marveline Vallo Gabbard


he Rainer Fellowship was established in memory of John Rainer (Taos Pueblo), Co-founder and first director of the American Indian Graduate Center. When he was sent to boarding school at age thirteen, John spoke only his Native language. Yet, at a time when it was rare to find Indians with any degrees, he persevered, ultimately earning a master’s degree in education from USC in 1951. Holding positions such as Director of the National Congress of American Indians, Chairman of the All Indian Pueblo Council and Director of the New Mexico Commission of Indian Affairs demonstrates his dedication to improving the quality of life and creating opportunities for Native Americans. His advocacy for education included participating in a Senate Budget Committee field hearing,

on science and math education, and testifying before the Senate and House Appropriations Sub-Committees on Interior Affairs. Recipients of the Rainer Fellowship are charged with following John Rainer’s path by using their education and career as tools for giving back to their communities – a logical assignment for this year’s recipients, given their history of volunteerism. They are already following John Rainer’s advice, “Get the best possible training you can.” Since the Rainer Fellowship is designed to reward the qualities and commitment characteristic of a future Indian leader, a portion of the award is to support participation in a voluntary activity that affords an opportunity to develop leadership skills.

“Continuing a Legacy” by Harold Kihega, Jr.


hank you for the opportunity to express my gratitude to the American Indian Graduate Center. My name is Harold Kihega, Jr. I am a member of the Otoe-Missouria Tribe of Oklahoma and a descendent of the Comanche and Kiowa tribes of Oklahoma. I currently attend the University of Oklahoma, where I am pursuing a Ph.D. in Science Education, with an interest in evolution. Recently, I received notification, from the American Indian Graduate Center, that I was chosen to receive the 2012-2013 Rainer Fellowship. I feel honored that I was considered and humbled knowing that there are many other deserving graduate students across the nation. My college path started long before I was born. In the 1940’s – 50’s my grandmother, Pearl Monetathchi Kauley, began to build a college legacy. She received her Bachelor of Science degree from a teaching college, which is now part of the University of Wisconsin, and a Master’s degree from the University of Oklahoma. It is hard to believe that she accomplished this, considering


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American Indians had gained their U.S. citizenship less than two decades earlier. Without a doubt, my grandmother emphasized the importance of earning a college degree to her children, as my mother became a registered nurse and her sister (my aunt) a social worker. I am fortunate that my grandmother was determined to get her education and to guide me down the same path. What I find incredible about my grandmother, mother and father is that each earned a college degree and returned to serve Native populations. I, too, have used my education to serve largely-populated American Indian communities. I began my teaching career at Oklahoma City Community College, where I served as co-sponsor for the American Indian Club. I later took a teaching position at Northern Oklahoma College, in Tonkawa, Oklahoma, where I also served as a co-sponsor for the American Indian Club. From there, I moved to Albuquerque, New Mexico, to teach biological sciences at Southwestern Indian Polytechnic Institute, and

also taught part-time at the Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe, New Mexico. I continually have the privilege to see some of my students continue with their education after leaving my courses. While in Albuquerque, I had the opportunity to attend an honors program in microbial ecology/biochemistry, at the University of Montana-Missoula, as a Sloan scholar. I stayed one semester and returned to Oklahoma, when a family member became ill. The University of Montana has an excellent support system for American Indian students and will always hold a special place in my heart. Currently, I proudly attend the University of Oklahoma, where my grandmother attended and my older sister earned her Master’s degree in chemistry. Since starting here, full-time, in 2011, I have served on the University’s Graduate Student Senate, where I joined the diversity committee in 2012. I am a member of the Intercultural/Diversity Committee (IDC) for the Department of Institutional Leadership and Academic Curriculum. I plan to use the Rainer fellowship to further my involvement on campus, by assisting the IDC committee chairperson in the planning of the Intercultural Festival scheduled for February of 2013. I also contacted the American Indian Student Life Coordinator, to offer free tutoring, for the remainder of the fall 2012 semester and the upcoming spring 2013 semester, for American Indian students enrolled in biological science courses. As a final note, my current Ph.D. program has exposed me to various studies in critical research and I realize that American Indians are not the only minority

Harold Kihega, Jr.

reflecting low numbers of individuals obtaining college degrees. The assimilation from home to school is often a difficult hurdle. But, as I think of my grandmother leaving Oklahoma to attend school in Wisconsin, I feel an obligation not only to myself, but to my daughter, my sister’s children and my extended family, to finish a doctoral program. Considering my family history, I have come to realize that assisting American Indian communities is a generational passion. Ultimately, those who consider attending college or advancing their education at the graduate level should go forth and create their own legacy. Our ancestors/tribes/pueblos/people are watching…

“Educating Our Youth” by Leslie Costa-Guerra


s Native people, we are no strangers to community service. In my Pueblo community, helping others is the very premise of our being. When I was informed that I was honored with receiving the Rainer scholarship, I thought about how to give back. My first thought was to help the community that gave me life; thus, Tesuque Pueblo became my focus. Many of our students are caught in standing water; that is, they are undecided about which path to take for their future. Much like Mr. Rainer, I know that education needs to be a part of how we grow as Native people.

Because life has given me many fortunes, like my husband, daughters and family, I also know that support and positive role models Leslie Costa-Guerra are crucial in the success of any scholar. As a part of this journey to give back, I decided to take the path of leadership, as a means to guide. During one of our feast days, I was able to talk Continued on page 45

The American Indian Graduate


Institute for Broadening Participation

Building Partnerships to Support Diversity in STEM by Chris Cash


he mission of the Institute for Broadening Participation (IBP) is to increase diversity in the Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) workforce. IBP designs and implement strategies to increase access to STEM education, funding and careers, with special emphasis on diverse underrepresented groups. Diversifying the STEM workforce is the best way to ensure our nation’s economic vitality and solve global challenges. IBP’s website, gives students, faculty and administrators information about STEM programs, funding, mentoring and resources. The searchable database includes over 650 paid summer research programs, 300 graduate programs and fellowships, and 250 postdoctoral positions. IBP hosts the MS PHD’S (Minorities Striving and Pursuing Higher Degrees of Success in Earth System Science) program. MS PHD’S provides student mentees with professional development opportunities, science exposure, networking opportunities and mentoring relationships. For mentors, the program offers ongoing mentoring activities, with a highly talented group of minority students who are committed to achieving successful science careers. Jason Baldes, a Montana State University graduate student, is an MS PHD’S alumnus. Jason is an enrolled member of the Eastern Shoshone tribe and has long been committed to improving life on the reservation. In addition to his research developing new approaches to solve the increasing problem of aquatic invasive species, Jason continues to work towards the establishment of a bison herd in Wind River reservation. His career goal is to work with indigenous peoples and others on conservation and restoration issues. At the recent AISES National Conference held in Anchorage, Alaska, Jason was a highlighted speaker for the IBP-hosted “Funding Your Graduate Education” panel. He shared his research, his positive experience as an MS PHD’S participant and how he has been successfully funding his graduate education through national fellowships. Jason was recently awarded the Science to Achieve


The American Indian Graduate

IBP Jason Baldes

Results (STAR) Graduate Fellowship, granted by the Environmental Protection Agency. Jason learned of the STAR fellowship through MS PHD’s mentor, Brandon Jones, who oversees the fellowship program for the EPA. IBP coordinates a national network of regional specialists, who share resources with students in the course of their outreach efforts. Included in this group of highly respected professionals are Melvin Monette, Director for Graduate Fellowships and Special Programs at the American Indian Graduate Center; Jack Soto, Project Coordinator of the National Coalition for the Advancement of Natives in Higher Education and Carmen Lopez, Executive Director of College Horizons. If you are a student interested in learning more about STEM opportunities, please visit to search for programs, review resources and tips on improving your applications, watch archived webinar videos, on topics like applying for paid summer research experiences for undergraduates, and use the sign-up form to receive personalized information on programs suitable to your disciplinary area and level of study. If you are a faculty member, you may want to check out IBP’s online mentoring manual, diversity library and resource toolbox, for handouts and resources that can help you support underrepresented minority students. You can also post your programs to, where they will be accessible to thousands of STEM students. ✦

Accenture Scholarships

Accenture American Indian Scholarship Recipients Announced for Academic Year 2012-2013 by Marveline Vallo Gabbard


he Accenture American Indian Scholarship program was established, in 2005, to build personal and lasting relationships with students who will become the future leaders in the American Indian communities and, possibly, with Accenture. The scholarship seeks the very brightest American Indian and Alaska Native undergraduate students pursuing degrees and careers in engineering, computer science, operations management, management, finance, marketing and other business-oriented fields. Accenture provides summer internship opportunities for those selected undergraduate scholars. The Accenture scholarship program is sponsored and funded by Accenture LLP and administered by the American Indian Graduate Center. Each academic year, Accenture selects students who demonstrate character, personal merit and commitment to the American Indian community locally and/or nationally. Merit is demonstrated through leadership in school, civic and extracurricular activities, academic achievement and motivation to serve and succeed. This year’s selection of the very brightest Accenture scholars includes:

Jordan Mecom


Aaron Melchor

The American Indian Graduate

• Nickolas Cantrell (Cherokee Nation) graduated from Locust Grove High School, in Locust Grove, Oklahoma, with a 3.98 GPA. Nickolas is currently attending Northeastern State University, pursuing a bachelor’s degree in computer science and information systems. • Megan Magness (Choctaw Nation) graduated from Edmond North High School, in Edmond, Oklahoma, with a 3.77 GPA. Megan is currently attending the University of Arkansas, pursing a bachelor’s degree in business. • Jordan Mecom (Choctaw Nation) graduated from Field Kindley High School, in Coffeyville, Kansas, with a 4.00 GPA. Jordan is currently attending Washington University in St. Louis, pursing a bachelor’s degree in economics.

Spencer Paisley

Jonathan Vierra

• Aaron Melchor (Santo Domingo Pueblo) graduated from Bosque School, in Albuquerque, New Mexico, with a 3.10 GPA. Aaron is currently attending Loyola Marymount University, pursuing a bachelor’s degree in sound engineering and computer science. • Spencer Paisley (Cherokee Nation) graduated from Bellevue High School, in Bellevue, Washington, with a 3.65 GPA. Spencer is currently attending the University of Washington, pursuing a bachelor’s degree in business. • Jonathan Vierra (Eastern Shoshone Tribe – Wind River) graduated from Lander Valley High School, in Lander, Wyoming, with a 3.60 GPA. Jonathan is currently attending California State University/ East Bay, pursuing a bachelor’s degree in business administration.

Congratulations to the AIGC 2012-13 Accenture American Indian Scholarship Recipients! ✦ For more information on the Accenture program, please visit (About Accenture - Accenture is a global management consulting, technology services and outsourcing company, with approximately 257,000 people serving clients in more than 120 countries. Combining unparalleled experience, comprehensive capabilities across all industries and business functions, and extensive research on the world’s most successful companies, Accenture collaborates with clients to help them become high-performance businesses and governments. Through its Skills to Succeed corporate citizenship focus, by 2015, Accenture will equip 250,000 people, around the world, with the skills to get a job or build a business. The company generated net revenues of $27.9 billion for the fiscal year ended Aug. 31, 2012. Its home page is

2013 Accenture American Indian Scholarship Program Apply online: AIGCS.ORG Each academic year, Accenture Corporation selects students who demonstrate character, personal merit and commitment to the American Indian community locally and/or nationally. Merit is demonstrated through leadership in school, civic and extracurricular activities, academic achievement, and motivation to serve and succeed. Eligibility requirements for Accenture include the following: • Be an enrolled member of a U.S. federally recognized American Indian tribe or Alaska Native group, verified through submission of the AIGC Tribal Eligibility Certificate (TEC) form, found at; and, • Be seeking a degree and career in fields of study including: various engineering, computer science, operations management, management, finance, marketing and other business oriented fields; and, • Be entering a U.S. accredited college or university as a full-time, degree seeking college undergraduate freshmen. High School transcript must have a cumulative GPA of 3.25 or greater, on a 4.0 scale at the end of the seventh semester; and, • Demonstrate character, personal merit and commitment to the American Indian Community locally and/or nationally. Merit is demonstrated through leadership in school, civic and extracurricular activities, academic achievement, and motivation to serve and succeed. All application materials must be submitted through the AIGC Online Application System (OAS) – visit the AIGC website at To enter the Online Application System, click the APPLY NOW button found in various places on the AIGC website. Email all inquiries to:

Deadline: Saturday, April 27, 2013 The American Indian Graduate


Fellowship Was a Dream Come True

Strengthening the Voices of Our People by Extending Education Beyond the Classroom by Danya Carroll


agot’eh and Ya’at’eeh! My name is Danya Carroll. I am both White Mountain Apache and Dine’ (Navajo). I was born and raised in Arizona, on the Fort Apache Indian Reservation. I received my Bachelor’s of Science degree in Microbiology from the University of Arizona. As an undergraduate, I had every intention of attending medical school. However, after attending a summer program, I discovered and became intrigued with public health. I am currently pursuing a Master’s of Public Health in Community Health Education at the Colorado School of Public Health. Growing up in an American Indian community, I saw the health disparities and inequities that American Indian people experience firsthand, including much higher rates of chronic and infectious diseases, like diabetes and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever. These experiences have provided me with a foundational knowledge of the causes and factors that contribute to the prevalent diseases and health disparities seen in Native communities. It is due to these experiences that I chose a path in public health. As an American Indian woman, I have found that one of the most important ways to help reduce health disparities is to serve as a voice for my people. There have already been numerous occasions in which I have been the only American Indian in the room. I am sure that many Native college students can relate to this. This can be daunting and even intimidating at times, but I’ve learned to embrace it because it enables me to raise awareness of the health issues that American Indian populations face. I have been able to contribute to the diversity in my program by sharing life experiences, ideas and views with my colleagues. I cannot express enough how important it is that Native students are involved in critical conversations and discussions on the various issues that Native people face, whether it is in the classroom or in your own home communities.


The American Indian Graduate

As an undergraduate student, I was able to participate in many great opportunities and have continued to do so as a graduate student. In the summer of 2012, I was selected to participate in the Dr. James A. Ferguson Emerging Infectious Diseases Fellowship, at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta, GA. Through this fellowship, I was able to gain experience and knowledge of vital public health research, leadership and policy skills. I interned in both the Division of STD Prevention and also the Office of Tribal Support.

As an American Indian woman, I have found that one of the most important ways to help reduce health disparities is to serve as a voice for my people. This fellowship was a dream come true, because I was able to see how a federal government public health agency works firsthand. I observed how critical collaborations and relationships, between the CDC and tribal governments, work to address the prevalent health disparities affecting American Indian & Alaska Native (AIAN) populations. I gained valuable insight of how the policies and processes produced at this level are translated into practices that directly impact local, state and regional tribal health programs. Through networking, I was able to connect with many inspiring individuals who are working hard to improve Native health. I was

Dr. James A. Ferguson Emerging Infectious Diseases Fellows (Danya in white blouse)

able to develop mentoring relationships, with some of these individuals, that have continued beyond the end of the program. I even had the opportunity to meet CDC Director, Dr. Frieden! While at the CDC, I noticed that there were very few AI/AN employees or students participating in the various internship programs they offer. However, I have noticed this in many of the internship programs I have participated in over the years. There is a huge need for more interest and participation from AI/AN students in federal government internships, such as the one in which I participated. It is crucial that more AI/AN students continue and complete their education, so that they can take advantage of these opportunities to gain experience, develop beneficial mentoring relationships and foster valuable career connections that will improve and enhance AI/AN communities. Personally, I am a firm believer of applying and participating in internship opportunities outside of school. I highly encourage students to take advantage of these opportunities, because they provide experiences and knowledge that cannot be fully offered in a class or lab. Many doors of opportunity have opened for me because of my in internship participation. In addition to experience, internships also can serve as a pipeline into the workforce. There is a significant need for more diversity in the workforce, particularly in public health. It should be common to see Native professionals working at higher level national agencies and programs, because the policies and practices of these entities often affect tribes. By increasing the numbers of AI/ AN students participating in federal internships, we are able to strengthen and extend the voices of our people beyond our local communities and reservations. As AI/

AN students, we have unlimited potential to empower and positively impact our communities. By using our education and experiences, we can continue to produce innovative solutions and ideas that can address the concerns of our people. I am very proud of my roots and my history. It is my goal to make good health a reality for Native communities, because it is a right not a privilege.

By using our education and experiences, we can continue to produce innovative solutions and ideas that can address the concerns of our people. As a graduate student, I am grateful for the support and investment that AIGC has made in my future and education. Being an AIGC Graduate Fellow has enabled me to embark on the path to achieving my goals and making a difference for my people. It has also made the path in higher education possible and less burdensome. As a result of AIGC’s support and my internship experiences, I know that I am more competent and prepared for the future public health practice and research I will do with Native communities. I am hopeful that we will see more AI/AN students taking advantage of fellowships and internships and, by doing so, will use their voices to continue to channel in the hope, change and leadership that is needed in our communities. âœŚ

The American Indian Graduate


Indian Law Policy

Student Follows Internships With Innovative Online Program by Jordan Harmon


ot all students of higher education follow the same path to a degree and today’s Native American students often walk a broader, more creative road to their educational goals. Yadira Caballero, Navajo (Dine), is an inspiring example. Caballero received a B.S. in Agribusiness Economics and Management from the University of Arizona, but chose to continue her education in interestingly diverse ways. While interning with the USDA, through Washington Internships for Native Students program this summer, she entered a first-of-its kind, online program in Indian Law. The Master of Jurisprudence in Indian Law degree is a 30-credit-hour, online program for college graduates, particularly those working in tribal governments and businesses, and government agencies, who are interested in learning about Indian law. The program is also for lawyers who wish to gain additional expertise or expand their practices. The University of Tulsa College of Law and Concord Law School of Kaplan University jointly launched the program in 2011. MJIL program director, Shonday Harmon, Muscogee, said TU understood the need for this degree for people who are not necessarily taking the bar exam. “Indian law is becoming pervasive,” Harmon said. “This degree is for anyone who has a bachelor’s degree and is already working for, or plans to work for a federal, state or tribal agency, or someone who plans on pursuing a law degree.” Harmon has seen the first class of 10 students, in August 2011, grow to the 63 enrolled for spring 2013. Ms. Caballero was admitted to the MJIL program in June. She said she wanted to take advantage of the opportunity to learn about Indian policy. “I hope to use this knowledge to work closely with tribes,” Caballero said. “For this reason, I was intrigued to learn the history of American Indians and how to use it to improve everyday life for my people.”


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Caballero completed her first semester in the MJIL program at her home in Tucson, Jordan Lee Harmon Arizona. “I like the online aspect of the program, because it allowed me to stay home and take these classes. Not everyone offers Indian law programs and TU offers an opportunity for students to receive this degree, even if they can’t travel out of state. My internship experience helped build the skills needed for the study of law. This program caters very well to past, present and future interns.” Harmon said TU seeks to hire Native American professors who are experts in their field. One such is Walter Echo-Hawk, a speaker, author and attorney, who teaches an indigenous rights course. Caballero said the professors are a large part of her success in the program. “I enjoy learning from the professors at TU,” Caballero said. “They really want their students to understand how to use their knowledge of Indian policy to benefit their communities.” Caballero said the program is not just for Native American students. “A lot of attorneys don’t understand Indian law,” Caballero said. “This program is a really good experience for people to get a better understanding of Indian policy. People don’t know how Native people look today and Indian Country needs people who understand its issues and needs.” The TU College of Law also offers a Native American Law Certificate and an LL.M. in American Indian and Indigenous Law. ✦ About Author: Jordan Lee Harmon is from the Muscogee (Creek) Nation. She is currently a Junior at Oklahoma State University, majoring in Political Science, with a minor in American Indian Studies/Spanish. Jordan held the title of 20102011 Miss American Indian OSU and is a 2012 WINS Intern.

THE ONLINE MASTER OF JURISPRUDENCE IN INDIAN LAW The Online Master of Jurisprudence in Indian Law (MJIL) degree is designed for college graduates who are interested in learning about Indian law but may not wish to become lawyers. It is also for lawyers who wish to gain additional expertise or expand their practices. Individuals who possess a bachelor’s degree and who work in, around, or with Indian Country governmental, social and business institutions will be able to expand and improve their knowledge of Indian law without having to leave their current positions.

The MJIL is a 30-credit hour program offered entirely online. Classes will incorporate the latest materials, audio files, and video feeds in a curriculum designed to ensure efficient and active learning about practical issues of the day such as: Federal Indian Law • Civil and Criminal Jurisdiction in Indian Country • Law Enforcement • Indian Gaming • Energy and Mineral Development, Water Rights, Environmental Protection and Remediation • Economic Development, Taxation, Contracting and Compacting • Delivery and Administration of Social Services • The Indian Child Welfare Act

To learn more about the Master of Jurisprudence in Indian Law and see how easy it is to attend classes from the office, home, or anywhere an internet connection exists, visit Tel: 918-631-3991 Email: Website: Facebook: The University of Tulsa College of Law 3120 East 4th Place, Tulsa, OK 74104

“Now tribal lawyers and judges, as well as tribal leaders and administrators, are able to expand and improve their knowledge of Indian law without having to leave Indian Country.” – Professor G. William Rice, Co-Director of the Native American Law Center

The American Indian Graduate


Passion and Internships

Turning an Internship into a Career by Jennifer Coots Valdez


a’at’eeh, shi eiya Jennifer (Coots) Valdez yinishye. Tabaaha nishli, Irish ba shiishchiin, Ta’chiinii da shi chei adoo English da shi naalii. My name is Jennifer (Coots) Valdez and I am Navajo from Oak Springs, New Mexico. I am honored to say I was an AIGC Fellow during my graduate studies at the University of New Mexico, from 2002 through 2005. The scholarship allowed me to focus on my schoolwork and earn top grades; I was valedictorian of the 2005 MBA class at UNM, which is important when you apply for government jobs and internships; a low GPA can be a barrier to employment. In 2004, I secured a summer internship, at Sandia National Laboratories (SNL) in Albuquerque, working for the Tribal Energy Program, funded by the Department of Energy. The program supports renewable energy development, on tribal lands, for personal and/ or commercial use. Although most of the Native graduate interns in the program were technical students in engineering and related fields, I was hired to apply my studies in F\finance to the financial sustainability of the projects we supported. The internship introduced me to the field of renewable energy and the scientific world, in ways I could never have imagined. I don’t claim to be a “technical” person when it comes to science and engineering, however, I learned that my business degree only makes sense in the context of the work it is supporting – and that really required me to get out in the field and understand the demands of the technical staff. So, my first piece of advice to students is to look beyond the boundaries of your field of study – look to internships that expose you to something about which you are passionate. I was passionate about economic development in Indian Country – and my internship showed me how renewable energy projects develop the economies of various tribes. In retrospect, there are other gems of learning, from my internship, that have served me professionally over the last eight years. Our team traveled three out of four weeks of the month over the summer, so I learned how


The American Indian Graduate

Jennifer Valdez

to organize trips and prepare for them. My boss, Sandra Begay-Campbell, mentored me on how to organize my travel paperwork, submit receipts and paperwork for reimbursement, manage a corporate credit card and a myriad of other details. The organization I learned in my internship I still use today! I was also exposed to corporate training for the first time. I learned that training is a significant part of working at a government-funded

Look beyond the boundaries of your field of study – look to internships that expose you to something about which you are passionate. agency and it must be managed, by the employee, to maintain a clean training record. Begay-Campbell also worked with interns on proper email etiquette, which is very important at a large organization where you often never meet or see the people with whom you work. My second piece of advice is to pay attention and learn “corporate details” when you land an internship – it’s not just

the specific job you learn at your internship that holds value. There’s a ton of learning about the culture of working in a government agency that is vital if you want to turn your internship into a full-time position. That’s what happened when I graduated in 2005. Upon completion of my MBA, I was offered a job at SNL and moved into the corporate finance side of the company. I started off in procurement, which is the department responsible for purchasing all products and services for the company. The Procurement or Purchasing Department is very specialized in a government agency because there are volumes of regulations (policies and procedures) about how tax dollars can be spent. My job allowed me to work with a variety of different organizations at SNL, including offices in California, Hawaii and Alaska. I learned a lot about the company, because I was exposed to the diverse work being performed at different sites and within individual teams. Procurement also allowed me to work directly with company lawyers, upper management and even a few directors. Another aspect of the job I greatly enjoyed was building relationships with the many businesses that provide products and services

to the company. I traveled to visit these companies and enjoyed learning about their industries and operations. Due to the complexity of government purchasing and the constantly changing regulations, many people spend their entire careers in procurement. I took advantage of an opportunity that came up, to move into the international department of the company, where I was a Financial Analyst, working directly to support a team of about 30 people. As an analyst, I developed annual and monthly budgets, developed cost quotes for work and supported the team’s world travel schedules and needs. This position exposed me to government funding, which is a really important aspect of working at a government-funded agency. Government funds consist of monies coming from Washington, into the agency, to pay for the work the entire team performs (even your salary). The process of the money moving through the system is somewhat like water coming through the pipes in your house – but imagine, at every turn and valve, another agency can slow down or turn off the water! It’s actually fascinating and I saw how what happens in Washington directly Continued on page 48

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Guided By My Own Light

Solar Systems of Support by Tanaya Winder


begin most mornings walking through the solar system. On my commute to work, at the University of Colorado Boulder, I pass a scaled model of the solar system with planets on pedestals. For weeks, I didn’t notice them but, when I finally did, I thought ‘perhaps one day I’ll write about it’; the writer in me is always searching for moments when I can make meaning out of seemingly random events. Nine planets line my direct path. Walking past them, I can’t help but think how the universe conspires to take you where you are meant to be. My daily stride begins with Pluto, though today it is no longer considered a planet, but rather a dwarf, so small it barely deems recognition. Most journeys begin this way, with seemingly insignificant events. The majority of my childhood summers were spent in libraries. My aunts took my sister, cousin and me on hour-long drives to town, in the hot desert temperatures, but we never complained about the destination. Aisles, filled with so many names and titles, called to us like adventures, places waiting to be exploredand knowledge to be discovered. In the library learning was fun because my aunts made it that way, often assigning projects: research this song, read the sheet music, look up the history of that battle or read about the background of a certain musician. They engaged us by imbuing the library and each search through the stacks with interest and passion. Back then, I didn’t realize those small moments would play such an important role in my life, by laying a foundation for an appreciation of words. The four planets furthest from the sun are the largest. When I think of the biggest formative experiences and/or people in my formative years, my grandparents, my mother and Upward Bound come to mind. My grandpa made us do math before we could play outside. My sister and cousin did Algebra while I did multiplication. The summer after my 2nd grade year stands out most in my mind. I had to list the times tables; 1x1, 1x2, 1x3 all the way to 1x12, then 2x1, etc., until I eventually got to 12x12. I was angry for being stuck inside but,


The American Indian Graduate

Tanaya Winder

when I entered 3rd grade that fall, we started multiplication. Because of all the time my grandpa made me invest that summer, my times tables were memorized before classes even began. For the first time, I was ahead of the curve. I realized my grandpa taught me a valuable lesson that I still carry with me today – put in the work, dedication, commitment and it will pay off. From that point on, I worked to get the best grades I could. By the time I was in 4th grade, I knew I wanted to attend Stanford University, because my grandparents said I should go there. I’m sure at that point in my life I didn’t even know where Stanford was or what kind of school it was, but it was ingrained in my mind. My mother promoted education just as much as the rest of my family. Along with knowledge in an academic classroom, my mother taught us to prepare for the life you wanted to live. If you wanted something, you worked for it. For instance, when I wanted a cell phone, I had to get a job. To this day, I appreciate not being handed everything I wanted, because it forced me to have a strong work ethic. In high school, when I wasn’t playing sports, I was working as a waitress and cashier at the restaurant in our local casino. There I could do homework behind the counter during slow times. I knew I wanted to go to college and wanted to start saving as soon as possible to see my dreams come to pass. My mother was also the person who encouraged us to

apply to the University of Colorado at Boulder’s Upward Bound Program, a program started in Boulder in 1981. Upward Bound is a program intended to get lowincome and/or first generation college students onto a college-intended path. The CU program is unique in that it works specifically with Native American reservations and communities. During the summers of my rising sophomore to senior year in high school, I spent six weeks on the CU campus taking classes to prepare me for the fall semester. Essentially, it was a bigger and more expansive version of what my grandpa made me do years before. As students, we got to take math classes our schools might not have offered and biology and chemistry courses in actual labs on CU. The coursework was hands-on, with field trips to sites around Boulder. Sunday through Thursday evenings were spent at a mandatory study hall, from 7:45pm – 9:45 pm. The program even

declared my double major in Psychology and Political Science and applied for and received an American Indian Science and Engineering Society (AISES) internship that allowed me to work for the U.S. State Department during the summer after my sophomore year in college. At State, I worked in the Office of Civil Rights, Diversity Management and Outreach Section. During one conversation, my supervisor and I discussed the lack of Native American presence in government jobs, specifically at the State Department. As he asked for my thoughts on how they could better recruit, I thought maybe the answer to increasing our presence in those careers and pipelines started sooner than college and even before high school. I began asking myself: how do we get more of our people and youth inspired to attend college and how do we keep them motivated and committed to staying there to finish. During that summer in Washington, D.C., I also

Meeting dozens of other young Native American students, from all across the country, who were all there for the same purpose, bettering themselves, with the hopes of bettering our communities, was one of the most empowering things I have ever experienced. put on a college fair, bringing out at least 10 different institutions to talk to us about their schools. During this time, I also learned about the AIGC scholarships and the Gates Millennium Scholarship, for which I later applied, received and used to attend Stanford University. I learned the best study skills I could during those years at Upward Bound but, more importantly, I learned that I wasn’t alone in my desire to further my education. The best part of Upward Bound was the family made there. Meeting dozens of other young Native American students, from all across the country, who were all there for the same purpose, bettering themselves, with the hopes of bettering our communities, was one of the most empowering things I have ever experienced. As we get closer to the sun, we encounter the four inner planets with solid planetary surfaces. Their composition is denser and they have more expansive aspects to their surface, like canyons, craters and mountains. I encountered my own craters, canyons and mountains, as I struggled with a sense of belonging in a world-class institution like Stanford. For the first quarter, I probably cried at least once a week, thinking I wasn’t smart enough to be there. Once I got into my stride, I thought my childhood ambitions of wanting to be a lawyer still held true. So, I

researched different law firms that specialized in Indian law. I emailed associates asking if they’d be willing to meet me for lunch to discuss their educational and career paths. During those meals, I received helpful advice and insight. While I cared about legal and political issues affecting my people, somehow I couldn’t see myself happy in their roles. It was then I decided part of my future ambitions would include teaching. That fall, I returned to Stanford intent on changing my major to English. I wanted to be a writer and took advantage of every opportunity my school offered. I was able to take classes with Robert Pinsky, Li Young Lee, Eavan Boland, Cherrie Moraga and others. Finally, I felt like I was on the right path, but there are always those unexpected occurrences; mine was an impact crater with a friend a year younger than I. During my junior year, I was studying abroad, at Oxford in England. Part of my studies would include partaking in the Oxford tutorial system learning the ins and outs of contemporary British poetry. I was in Oxford about a week, when I received a phone call telling me one of my dear friends committed suicide and that event shook me out of orbit and changed the course of life, as I knew it. I ended up leaving Stanford and Oxford that quarter.

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Guided By My Own Light That summer, I returned to the CU Upward Bound program, to work as a Resident Advisor, living in the dorms with the students, and an Instructor’s Assistant for the introduction to creative writing class, where I worked on a poetry project with students. I was only able to work for Upward Bound because I was back in the country. Once again, Upward Bound came into my life when I needed it. The students I worked with were like younger brothers and sisters. In them, I saw my friend, I saw the potential each of them had, and I wanted to be there to support them, perhaps because I wasn’t able to be there for my friend when he needed me. That summer gave me purpose, by being a role model for the students and, more importantly, that summer changed the course of my orbit. I returned the next three summers to work for the program. So much has happened throughout the years; good, positive experiences and many moments of growth and learning. In June 2008, I graduated from Stanford University, with a Bachelor’s in English and went on

Our Upward Bound program recently was awarded a five-year grant from the U.S. Department of Education, a grant I helped write, which means we will be able to continue serving Native American students from various reservation/Indian communities. This grant period allows us to recruit approximately 103 students, from 21 high schools, within targeted areas located on or near 8 major Native American reservations or communities, throughout the United States, including the Comanche Nation, Lumbee Indian Community, Jemez Pueblo, Navajo Nation, Pine Ridge reservation, Umatilla reservation, Ramah Navajo community and the Southern Ute reservation, where I grew up. Now, I’m the one who gets to hire Resident Advisors to mentor the students, as dorm mother, fathers, big brothers and sisters. I love the life I am living and I am living a life I love, because I get to serve people I care about deeply, Native youth. Everyone needs his or her own solar system of support. Now, I recognize the importance of speaking dreams, hopes, prayers and faith over children’s lives,

I love the life I am living and I am living a life I love, because I get to serve people I care about deeply, Native youth. to graduate from the University of New Mexico, with a Masters of Fine Arts in Creative Writing. Today, I can say I am a Native woman who has co-edited a book with one of my Native women mentors and heroes, Joy Harjo. Today, I am a co-founder and editor-in-chief of As/Us: A Literary Space for Women of the World, a literary journal started with colleagues for indigenous and underrepresented women. People say life comes down to the choices you make. I certainly made a lot of choices, of seemingly unrelated paths, majors, internships and interests. I may have accomplished a lot of what I set out to do, but what I didn’t intend on, and what I am most proud of today, is that I am the Assistant Director of the University of Colorado at Boulder Upward Bound program, the same program I attended throughout my high school years the same program that changed my life path to an educator and writer. If we think about our own lives in terms of a solar system, one could compare our goals and dreams to the sun around which we orbit. For instance, I want to be a writer, a teacher and a motivator, so I arrange my life to orbit around those ambitions. My job allows me to use all the best parts of myself, I can teach, motivate, plan, coordinate, write and, hopefully, inspire.


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whether they are your own children or not. The best gift my system of support gave me was their belief and their passion. I realize some people don’t come from strong support systems and that’s why I try my best to be encouraging in my work, where we get students from a variety of backgrounds. If students don’t have support at home, they can get it from their respective schools, on sports teams, in clubs or other places like our Upward Bound program, if they seek out those support systems. I share with my students my experiences growing up on a reservation, coming to the same Upward Bound program, going to Stanford and all the ups and downs that have happened in between. There are always going to be occurrences that get us off track and out of orbit, but I try my best to live by example and remind those I encounter that we need to let ourselves be guided by our own lights, by the sun and brightness that shines in each of us. Nothing ignites a light within others more than passion, so I try to share mine as much as I can. When you’re young, you don’t always know what you want but, more importantly, you don’t always know what’s possible. I want to prepare the youth and college students I work with, for the dreams they want to pursue as well as those for which they don’t even know they are destined. ✦

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Mentored Teaching Experience

Taking Advantage of Non-Traditional Adventures by Conner I. Sandefur


herever you are in your journey, be adventurous and find community. Reflecting on my path to my postdoctoral position at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNCCH), I found these two common themes to be the foundations of my experiences. Early during graduate school, I accepted an opportunity to recruit at an American Indian Science and Engineering Society conference. Being a shy person, I was anxious about recruiting, but did not want to miss the opportunity to go to a conference full of intelligent and creative Indian people. It turned out to be a terrific experience and I met many new people. When I returned home, I followed up on the contacts I made and reported back to the university office on how my recruitment went. Recruitment trip offers continued throughout graduate school and I said yes whenever I could. During these trips, I was encouraged to apply to a variety of programs and often took advantage of the opportunity. If I was accepted into a program, I took it on as a new adventure – a challenge to myself - and as a way to expand my community of mentors and peers. My first attempt at applying for anything in graduate school was for the AIGC graduate fellowship. I learned of the opportunity last minute, but gave it a shot and was rewarded with a fellowship. It was incredibly helpful and I am grateful to AIGC for the support. Other opportunities presented themselves as well. I applied for, and attended, the National Institutes of Health (NIH), Intramural NIAID Research Opportunities program in Bethesda, Maryland. What an amazing experience to see the NIH campus in person! And, somewhat unexpectedly, I met a few other fellow Indian scientists who attended the workshop. One of my best experiences during graduate school resulted from taking advantage of a non-traditional adventure, attending the Students to Academic Professoriate for American Indians (SAPAI) program at


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Conner Sandefur

the University of Montana and Salish Kootenai College. I applied to the program in January and waited some months to learn of my acceptance. It took a few conversations with my advisor and dissertation committee to explain the importance of this type of experience.

Wherever you are in your journey, be adventurous and find community.

Ultimately, they were receptive to my attending and, in the summer of 2010, I completed the six-week dissertation writing program and the three-week faculty prep program. The SAPAI program was a challenging and fantastic adventure. I left the program with increased

self-confidence and a reenergized sense of purpose and direction to obtain my Ph.D. While my fellow graduate students were not leaving for nine weeks during their dissertation writing, it was something I had to do to challenge myself and engage in a broader national community of Native scholars. After returning from Montana, I applied my new energy and self-confidence to completing my Ph.D. and seeking out my next adventure: a postdoc. A

along the way; I am supported and encouraged by two terrific mentors: Dr. Richard Boucher and Dr. Timothy Elston. During the spring of my second year and the fall of my third year, I will teach at one of the partner, minority-serving institutions here in North Carolina. For my peers and me, this is the reason we chose an IRACDA program: the opportunity to gain mentored teaching experience before our first faculty positions. It is an aspect of the SPIRE program about which we are

I feel incredibly fortunate to be able to work towards solutions to diseases that so deeply impact many of our Indian families. reoccurring theme for me at conferences during graduate school, was speaking with faculty and staff from a number of Institutional Research and Academic Career Development Awards (IRACDA) postdoctoral fellowship programs. These more non-traditional postdoctoral programs are at a number of universities across the United States and include both mentored research and mentored teaching experiences. I clearly remember being approached by a faculty member of UNC-CH, who spoke with me about the Seeding Postdoctoral Innovators in Research & Education (SPIRE) program, one of the oldest IRACDA programs. She encouraged me to apply and several years later, when I was nearing graduation, I applied, interviewed over Skype and was admitted into the program. It definitely took a sense of adventure and encouragement, from a supportive group of family and friends, to make the move to North Carolina. As a SPIRE scholar at UNC-CH, I have the unique opportunity to gain experience in both research and teaching during my postdoctoral training. My first year and half in the SPIRE program will primarily be spent on research. In general, I research how our airways maintain normal function and investigate what goes wrong in airway diseases, such as chronic pulmonary obstructive disease (often called COPD), cystic fibrosis and asthma. I feel incredibly fortunate to be able to work towards solutions to diseases that so deeply impact many of our Indian families. Each day, I find fulfillment and challenge in my research and,

all incredibly excited and most nervous. Fortunately, we attend workshops to prepare for these experiences, as well as have a network of SPIRE scholars to lean on, all of who have already succeeded in their teaching experiences. In the academic research world, I am considered a young scientist – somewhere near independence, but not quite there yet. As a postdoctoral scholar, I continue to challenge myself to be adventurous in my research, but seek out and listen to the advice of my mentors and peers. I try to take on the suggestions of my mentors with full energy and enthusiasm. I do so knowing that I have the support I need to continue on my journey, both from the academic community and the growing family of Indian people I meet along the way. âœŚ For more information on the programs listed above, please visit the following websites: NIH Intramural NIAID Research Opportunities (INRO): pages/default.aspx Students to Academic Professoriate for American Indians (SAPAI): SPIRE and similar IRACDA postdoctoral fellowships: About the Author: Conner is an enrolled member of the Chickasaw Nation, which is located in Oklahoma. You can find him on the web at

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Spirit of E.A.G.L.E.S.

Building the Pipeline for Cancer Control by Dr. Judith Kaur


ased at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN, and American Indian or Alaska Native medical students, led by Judith Salmon Kaur, M.D. (Choctaw/ as first time enrollees in 2012. (See table.) Cherokee), the Spirit of E.A.G.L.E.S. (SoE) A unique resource, for students and professionCommunity Networks Program has a major focus on als working with American Indian and Alaska Native training the next generation of health care leaders. This communities and patients, is Native C.I.R.C.L.E. multidisciplinary national program aims to reduce cancer health disparities by implementing and assessing Training opportunities exist innovative and culturally appropriate outreach, research and training. The advisory board includes Native and for American Indian and non-Native leaders for community driven partnerships. (See photo of the board.) The program includes intervenAlaska Native students from tional research with tribal communities, education on all levels and training. undergraduate programs, Training opportunities exist for American Indian medical schools and graduate and Alaska Native students from undergraduate programs, medical schools and graduate schools across the schools across the country. country. Travel scholarships are provided to Spirit of E.A.G.L.E.S. meetings, such as the national conference, “Changing Cancer Patterns in Native Communities: Strength Through Tradition and Science”, planned for Albuquerque, NM, October 25 – 28, 2013. The Surgeon General of the Navajo Nation, Gayle Dine Chacon, M.D., will be keynote speaker at the conference. Support for students to attend this conference – as well as AISES, AAIP and SACNAS conferences – will be available in 2013. SoE completed a MCAT/GRE preparation workshop in December 2012, with applicants from across the United States, to enhance success for those seeking admission to medical school or graduate school. According to the Association Advisory Board for Spirit of Eagles 1st row: Judith Swan, Chuck Wiggins, Marilyn of American Medical Colleges Roubidoux, me, Karen Morgan, Nikole Fox Back row: Dana Kontras, Linda (AAMC), there were only 184 Burhansstipanov, Lillian Tom-Orme, Marcy Averill, Rick Strickland, Lisa Baethke


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Contact: Lesley Ward 202-828-0655

(Cancer Information Resource First-Time Enrollees to U.S. Medical Schools, 2005-2012 Center and Learning Exchange). C.I.R.C.L.E. is the educational outYear reach arm for Spirit of E.A.G.L.E.S. Enrollees 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2011 2010 2012 and has the most comprehensive 182 184 172 191 164 153 191 157 American Indian and Alaska Native literature repository of cancer and other health issues affecting Native Asian 4,572 3,756 3,682 3,932 3,941 4,114 4,214 4,354 communities. Culturally appropriate patient education materials are Black or African American 1,375 1,416 1,240 1,264 1,288 1,293 1,312 1,350 distributed across the country and, Hispanic or Latino 1,633 1,731 1,272 1,288 1,281 1,416 1,412 1,539 indeed, across the world! The Hampton Faculty Fellows Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander 62 67 61 55 52 46 78 61 Program trains qualified health-disparities researchers (new and early 11,710 11,835 11,919 11,928 12,045 12,098 12,702 12,773 White stage investigators) to enrich experiOther Race (Not Hispanic) 22 25 9 4 20 18 29 4 ences in community-based participatory research (CBPR) in cancer U.S. Unknown Race 417 611 583 623 177 200 564 105 prevention and control and promotes their career development. (See Non U.S. or Permanent Resident (i.e., Foreign) 281 241 228 280 326 290* 266 263 picture of Priscilla, Dr. Kaur and Total Matriculants Leah.) Priscilla Sanderson, Ph.D., 17,003 17,361 17,759 18,036 18,390 18,665 19,230 19,517 at Northern Arizona University, just * Includes one matriculant of unknown citizenship received an R21 grant to develop Source: AAMC Data Warehouse: Applicant Matriculant File as of 10/16/12 the Center for American Indian Note: Column totals will exceed the “Total Matriculants” row total indicating multiple responses by the matriculants. This reflects the AMCAS race and Hispanic origin data collection using the two question, multiple response design. Resilience (CAIR). Priscilla’s Center is a partnership between Northern Arizona University, the University of Arizona and Dine College. Leah M. Rouse Arndt, • Indigenous Ways of Knowing: Community Healing Ph.D., at the University of Wisconsin Milwaukee, is Garden – led by Teshia Arambula Solomon, Ph.D. completing analysis of the first tribally-developed and at Native American Research and Training Center – completed, smoking cessation START clinical trial University of Arizona in Tucson, AZ (Stop Tobacco Abuse Restore Tradition). Leah’s work • Prostate Cancer in Indian Country: Lumbee Indian with the Menominee Nation of Wisconsin is a mileMen Speak Out – led by Dr. Ronny Bell at Maya stone in cancer control. Four new Hampton Faculty Angelou Center for Health Equity – Wake Forest Fellows will be selected from qualified American School of Medicine in Winston-Salem, NC Indian and Alaska Native postgraduate (M.D. or • Standing Rock Men’s Prostate and Colorectal Cancer Ph.D.) junior researchers in spring 2013. More inforScreening Program – led by Jodie Fetsch at Custer mation about the Hampton Faculty Fellows and other Health in Mandan, ND programs is available by contacting Marcy Averill, • Hopi Cancer Support Services – Men’s Cancer Health – Operations Director for Spirit of E.A.G.L.E.S., at 507led by Dana Russell at Hopi Tribe in Kykotsmovi, AZ 266-3064 or • “Dream the Cure” Conversations – led by Carol Grant funding for community-based cancer projects Cameron at Wisconsin Pink Shawl Initiative in West is provided to increase community awareness and underAllis, WI standing of cancer. Grants for 2012-2013 were awarded to: Students can check our website for the details of pro• One Mind for Wellness: Traditional Tobacco Medicine grams – including the Hampton Faculty Fellows applicaand Overcoming Smoking Addiction in American Indian tion, student travel applications, and research scholarships. Communities – led by Mark Powless at Southeastern ✦ Oneida Tribal Services in Milwaukee, WI • Stomping Cancer with Culture – led by Shawna Cooper at Billings Clinic Cancer Center in Billings, MT

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Courage to Accomplish Your Dreams

Contextual Wisdom at the Gates Millennium Scholars Freshman Leadership Conference Photo credit: Lise Balk King

by Stephine Poston


hen Walter Lamar took the stage at the Gates Millennium Scholars Freshman Leadership Conference in November, he stood before bright and eager scholars to deliver a message on context. The great-grandson of the last hereditary Chief of the Blackfeet People, former school teacher and FBI agent, and present-day entrepreneur did not present on lessons-learned throughout his lifetime nor did he offer advice on how to achieve success. Rather, Lamar stood before a sea of Gates Millennium Scholars to reflect on the simple concept of context -- the fabric woven by our ancestors and augmented by our own life experiences. This context, as Lamar explained, guides our decisions, establishes our perspectives and nurtures our confidence, just as it harbors self-doubt. Lamar demonstrated the power of context, using a story about his career with the FBI. In 1978, he was teaching at a school on the Blackfeet Reservation. The school received a visit from two FBI agents, who encouraged Lamar to submit an application to the FBI; they had been sent by Native American FBI agents Walter met at an NCAI conference in Albuquerque. He took the application, but fell short of completing it because his context convinced him he lacked the education and ability to work for the federal bureau. “I wanted to rewrite my narrative, but fear, doubt and a faulty self-assessment prevented me from making it happen,” Lamar recalls. His context – which cradled all that kept him from completing the application – was also the power behind what would, ultimately, become a 25-year career as a Special Agent for the FBI, Deputy Director of the Bureau of Indian Affairs Office of Law Enforcement and Senior Advisor to the Department of the Interior’s Office of Law Enforcement and Security. It was, as Lamar remembers, the presence of his ancestors who strengthened his wavering spirit and


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Mom: Lamar, standing with his mother, Catherine Lamar, is recognized by the National Center for American Indian Enterprise Development as the American Indian Business Owner of the Year for his contributions to the American Indian business community.

replaced his self-doubt with confidence, courage and fearlessness to accomplish those dreams. “I knew my personal narrative would be different than what my circumstances or what others may have dictated,” Lamar said. “I knew that I could be a victim of circumstance, or I could choose to be a survivor, take charge and write each chapter myself.” Through his story, Lamar urged the 500 plus attendees at the Gates Millennium Scholars Freshman Leadership Conference to consider their own context – to recognize the diversity in their backgrounds, history, languages, interests and dreams. He asked the scholars to acknowledge their context – that fabric woven from generations past – in order to deliver a better future for all American Indians. “In their years as students of higher education, many Gates Millennium Scholars will face challenges that

discourage and sometimes derail progression toward graduation,” said AIGC Director, Sam Deloria. “Mr. Lamar made an incredible impact on students at the conference, by delivering a compelling and thoughtful story of his past, his context and how he used it to ultimately serve the future of Native America.” In 2012, the National Center for American Indian Enterprise Development awarded Lamar the American Indian Business Owner of the Year Award for his contributions to the American Indian business community. Lamar currently serves as President and CEO of Lamar Associates, a Native Americanowned consulting and professional services company specializing in law enforcement, security and emergency preparedness. His wife, Dr. Cynthia Chavez Lamar (San Felipe Pueblo) is an AIGC alumna.

GMS: Gabriel Bell, AIGCS Academic Advisor; Christa Moya, AIGCS Director of Financial Aid and Student Services; Walter Lamar, Lamar Associates President/CEO; Joan Currier, AIGC Chief Operating Officer

It was, as Lamar remembers, the presence of his ancestors who strengthened his wavering spirit and replaced his self-doubt with confidence, courage and fearlessness to accomplish those dreams. “I so wish all of Indian Country could meet and visit with these impressive Native scholars. They are from tribes across this land. They are from diverse backgrounds, educational pursuits and interests – they are individuals, but they are us,” said Lamar. “As cliché as it is – they are our future leaders and we must support

them and let them know we are 100 percent behind them. I can’t remember a time when I was as proud as when I stood with those before the 500 plus scholars, with over a 100 being Native scholars, proud and filled with hope for our future.” ✦

The American Indian Graduate is now available in electronic form. If you would prefer to receive an email copy of our publication, please let us know at:

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Teach For America

Addressing the Need for More Native Leaders in Classrooms by Robert Cook


s an enrolled member of the Oglala Lakota Tribe and former teacher and school administrator in tribal schools in South Dakota, I believe deeply in the potential of every Native child. Today, however, Native children experience some of the highest levels of poverty in our country, which greatly impacts their academic and life options. In fact, according to the National Center for Education Statistics, only 49 percent of Native students graduate from high school, compared to the national average of 86 percent. The American Indian Education Foundation reports that only 17 percent of those high school graduates will attend college. For those lacking a college degree, many doors are firmly shut.

Teach For America is helping fuel the effort to create the systemic changes that will help end educational inequity. Teach For America is a national, nonprofit working to change that reality. Teach For America recruits recent college graduates and professionals, of all academic majors and career interests, to teach for two years in urban and rural public schools and become life-long leaders in the effort to expand educational opportunity. With more than 10,000 teachers, in 46 regions across the country, reaching some 750,000 students and nearly 28,000 alumni working in education and many other sectors, Teach For America is helping fuel the effort to create the systemic changes that will help end educational inequity. During the 2012-2013 school year, 530 Teach For America corps members are teaching more than 12,000 children from Native backgrounds in Hawaii, New Mexico and South


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Dakota communities. To date, our corps members have taught over 73,000 Native students. In 2010, I joined Teach For America to lead the launch of the organization’s Native Achievement Initiative, which aims to build a pipeline of Native leaders in education. We know it will take a movement of effective and transformational leaders, who are diverse in every respect, for our country to reach the day when all children are able to attain an excellent education. Having a diverse group of teachers not only enables us to have a bigger impact on the students we teach, but ensures that our alumni bring diverse voices and ideas to the table as leaders working closely with others to close the achievement gap. While we value all forms of diversity, we place particular emphasis on recruiting individuals who share the racial and/or socio-economic backgrounds of the students we teach. To this end, our initiative is focused on recruiting more American Indian, Alaska Native and Native Hawaiian corps members and becoming one of the top recruiters of Native leaders into the education field. Our efforts to recruit our next corps of teachers, for the 20132014 school year, are already underway. If you are interested in working alongside other excellent educators you can apply online at Our final application deadline is February 15, 2013. Below are some of the Native leaders who have joined our movement and why they chose to teach in Kristin Szczepanie Native communities. Kristin Szczepaniec (New Mexico Corps ’09) “As an educator, I had the ability to influence so many young minds. I saw firsthand how compassion,

coupled with high expectations, can drive a self-efficacy in students that knows no bounds.” Kristin is an enrolled member of the Seneca Nation. Kristin is currently an M.P.A. candidate, at the Cornell Institute for Public Affairs, studying Educational Policy and American Indian Studies. She received her Bachelor of Arts from the University of Notre Dame, majoring in Economics and International Peace Studies. Kristin taught 7th grade mathematics on the Laguna Pueblo Reservation in New Mexico. J’Shon Lee (New Mexico Corps ’11) “My experience, as a TFA corps member and teacher, has supported my understanding of major issues that affect Native students in the classroom. I hope to use my classroom experience to further develop Indian education through policy.” J’Shon Lee is an enrolled member of the White Mountain Apache Tribe from Arizona. She is a Gates Millennium Scholar and a 2011 Teach for America Corps Member. J’Shon is JShon Lee pursuing a master’s degree in Secondary Education from the University of New Mexico. She received her Bachelor of Arts from Arizona State University, majoring in Business Management and American Indian Studies. J’Shon teaches 7th and 8th grade social studies, at Laguna Middle School on the Pueblo of Laguna reservation, in New Mexico. Mark Cruz (South Dakota Corps ’10) “Teaching in the classroom is the single greatest impact you can have on the Native students. In the classroom, you have the opportunity to work with the next generation of tribal leaders. I plan to continue to be an advocate for students, teachers and administrators on a government level.” Mark Cruz is originally from Klamath Falls, Oregon and from the Klamath Tribes. Mark was a recipient of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation Millennium Scholarship, which he used to attend and graduate from Pepperdine University in 2010, with a B.A. in Political Science. Mark taught high school language arts at St. Francis Indian School, on the Rosebud Indian Reservation, in St. Francis, South Dakota. While at Saint Francis, he was named the 2011-2012 High School Teacher of the Year. In addition to teaching at

Saint Francis, Mark also worked with students on the Gates Scholarship, as well as college and scholarship applications. In the summer of 2011, Mark was selected to participate in the Morris K. Udall and Stewart L. Udall Foundation Native American Congressional Internship Program in Washington D.C. He is cur- Mark Cruz rently pursuing a master’s degree in Education Policy from Brown University and has been working with the White House Initiative on American Indian and Alaskan Native Education. Kristen-Marie Ortiz (Hawaii Corps ’09) “I wanted to become a teacher, because I believe all Native Hawaiians need to have a quality education in order to have a voice in our community. In Hawaii, too often we see people from the mainland coming to our islands and making choices for us, rather than collaborating with the local population. We need to have more educated Native Hawaiians in our islands, not only to help preserve our way of life, but also to help be part of the change – and, to me, that starts with education and teachers.” A Native Hawaiian, Kristen was born in Pearl City, Hawaii and attended Kamehameha Schools for 10 years. In 2009, she graduated from Colby Kristen-Marie Ortiz College with a Bachelor of Arts, majoring in psychology with a minor in education. For the past four years, Kristen has been teaching at her placement school, Kealakehe Elementary, in KailuaKona. She currently teaches fourth grade special education, in a general education inclusion setting, and has previously taught fifth grade special education inclusion for all subjects. Last year, Kristen earned a Master of Education in Special Education from the University of Hawaii at Manoa. ✦ About Author: Robert Cook is managing director of Teach For America’s Native Achievement Initiative.

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All Native American High School Academic Team Selected for the Academic Year 2012-2013 by Marveline Vallo Gabbard


he American Indian Graduate Center (AIGC) honors ten outstanding American Indian/Alaska Native high school seniors with the All Native American High School Academic Team (ANAHSAT) award. These high school seniors are selected based on academic achievement, honors and awards, leadership and community service. Each is given a monetary award, which may be spent at the student’s discretion. The objectives of this program are: to increase awareness of academic achievement of Indian high school seniors among their peers, Indian Country and the

Aaron Ashley


Carlton Colton

public; to increase recognition of Indian student success and capabilities as a positive motivation for pursing academic excellence and higher education; to increase academic achievement and role models as positive influences in Indian Country; to increase teacher, administrator, parent and community involvement by recommending, nominating and supporting student participation and to increase student participation in high school academic programs and pursuit of higher education. Congratulations to the 2012-2013 AIGC All Native American High School Academic Team:

Aspen M. Ducheneaux

Trevyn Elliott

• Aaron Ashley (Crow Creek Sioux Tribe) graduated from Gretna High School in Gretna, Nebraska, with a 4.00 GPA. Aaron is attending Massachusetts Institute of Technology to pursue a Bachelor of Science degree in astronautical engineering.

• Carlton Colton (Cherokee Nation) graduated from Warner High School in Warner, Oklahoma, with a 3.70 GPA. Carlton is attending Connor State College to pursue a Bachelor of Science degree in construction engineering.

• Haley S. Bird (Cherokee Nation) graduated from Kansas High School in Kansas, Oklahoma, with a 3.92 GPA. Haley is attending the University of Arkansas to pursue a bachelor’s degree in kinesiology.

• Aspen M. Ducheneaux (Cheyenne River Sioux) graduated from Cheyenne-Eagle Butte High School in Eagle Butte, South Dakota, with a 4.036 GPA. Aspen will be attending the University of South Dakota to pursue a bachelor’s degree in business.

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• Kalen Goodluck (Navajo Nation) graduated from Bosque School in Albuquerque, New Mexico, with a 3.10 GPA. Kalen will be attending Bard College to pursue a Bachelor of Arts degree in human rights, with a minor in political studies.

Kalen Goodluck

Tanner “Tosh” Minhesuah

• Trevyn Elliott (Chickasaw Nation) graduated from Valliant High School in Valliant, Oklahoma, with a 3.98 GPA. Trevyn will be attending Oklahoma State University to pursue a Bachelor of Science degree in electrical engineering.

• Tanner “Tosh” Minhesuah (Comanche Nation) graduated from Baldwin High School in Baldwin City, Kansas, with a 3.38 GPA. Tanner will be attending Baker University to pursue a bachelor’s degree in physical therapy. • George Mobley (Chickasaw Nation) graduated from Belton High School in Belton, Texas, with a 94.31 GPA. George will be attending Florida College to pursue a bachelor’s degree in information systems and computer sciences. Continued on page 49

2013 All Native American High School Academic Team Apply online: AIGCS.ORG The AIGC All Native American High School Academic Team (ANAHSAT) honors 10 American Indian and Alaska Native high school seniors each year. High school seniors with outstanding academic achievements, leadership in school, civic and extracurricular activities, and motivation to serve and succeed should apply. To be considered for the AIGC ANAHSAT, an applicant must: • Be an enrolled member of a United States federally recognized American Indian or Alaska Native group or be able to verify ¼ descent from such; and, • Have sustained an outstanding academic record based on the rigor available to them; and, • Have proven leadership and demonstrated community service activities; and, • Be enrolling at an accredited college or university as a full time degree seeking undergraduate student in the 2013 Fall term; and • Be a high school senior at time of application. All application materials must be submitted through the AIGC Online Application System (OAS) visit the AIGC website at To enter the Online Application System, click the APPLY NOW button found in various places on the AIGC website. Email all inquiries to:

Deadline: Saturday, March 16, 2013 The American Indian Graduate


Serving My Community

The Power of Higher Education to Promote Nation Building by Daryl Melvin, P.E., CAPT. (ret.) United State Public Health Service


t has been many years since I received my American Indian Graduate Center (AIGC) scholarship and earned my Master’s Degree in Civil and Environmental Engineering from the University of California, Berkeley. I find the passing years have only reinforced my belief in the power of higher education and how it drives tribal efforts to promote nation building. I am thankful to AIGC for empowering me to pursue a graduate degree that would ultimately position me to serve my community. With its mission to “build, promote and honor selfsustaining American Indian and Alaska Native communities through education and leadership,” AIGC has assisted American Indian students to pursue careers as physicians, business leaders, environmental scientists and university professors. In fact, since AIGC was founded in 1969, it has awarded over 15,000 graduate scholarships. I am proud to be one of the 15,000 who are integral to transformational change in Indian Country, by pursuing our educational and career goals, while understanding the importance of knowing and perpetuating our own cultures and histories.

Daryl Melvin

my extended family about the ceremonies that make Hopi unique. I was also able to teach my four sons about their Hopi culture and history. As I expanded my knowledge of engineering, I applied my discipline to facilities management and toward the design of health care facilities. Also during

My journey began when I made a commitment, as a teen, that I would earn my degree and return to the Hopi Reservation. My journey began when I made a commitment, as a teen, that I would earn my degree and return to the Hopi Reservation. Fortunate to have an engineering degree, I was committed to the task of helping my community and raising my young family. As an energetic professional engineer, I helped villages, across the remote Hopi reservation, through designing and constructing numerous water and sanitation facilities. Equally important to me, during this time, was that I learned from the elders and


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this period, my sons became teens and grew up participating in Hopi culture, learning their clan relationships and spending time with their grandparents. These were times that I will always cherish. My career evolved beyond engineering in 1999, when I became the CEO of the Hopi Hospital. I remain thankful for the education and the professional foundation that engineering provided me. It taught me excellence in Continued on page 49

DOE Grant Award

Approaching Life With Passion and Determination by Staci Van Norman


nergy is a constant topic of debates locally, nationally and internationally. The discussion about where and how we should obtain energy to maintain our way of life is an important issue. Clean, domestic, accessible, sustainable and economical; new and existing energy systems are being vetted every day based on these criteria. I am just one of the many people working toward a balanced new solution to our energy needs. My name is Staci Van Norman. I am a Chemical Engineer from Southern Oregon and the Cow Creek Band of the Umpqua Tribe of Indians and an AIGC fellow. Currently, I am in my fourth year of the Chemical Engineering PhD program at University of Colorado Boulder and committed to the research area of renewable and sustainable energy. The significance of my PhD research, for an immediate and significant impact on sustainable energy, was recently recognized by the Department of Energy through the Advanced Research Programs Agency-Energy. My proposal was awarded a $380,000 seedling grant. With this award, I will demonstrate that my novel technology is a balanced economic and sustainable solution for domestic energy production.

Staci Van Norman

to create a commercially-viable technology and we have filed a patent application. If successful, this domestic production of liquid fuels would create much needed jobs and revenue for the US economy. I am passionate about research and development of new technologies and their ability to make an immediate impact on domestic energy production and our nation’s economic concerns. The Department of Energy Advanced Research Programs Agency-Energy looks to collaboratively work, with research teams, on projects prepared to meet

I am passionate about research and development of new technologies and their ability to make an immediate impact on domestic energy production and our nation’s economic concerns. My thesis research is entitled Microtubular Atomic Layer Deposition-based Reactor Systems for Catalytic Reforming and is a novel concept for fabricating microstructured reactors, including catalyst integration, for production of liquid fuels (gasoline, diesel and jet fuel). My work is focused on experimental validation of the concept of using atomic layer deposition for fabrication of a structured reactor, as an alternative to microchannel reactors, and the opportunity to improve on their performance. The goal is to reduce the cost and simplify the method of fabrication,


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quantitative benchmark performance goals on aggressive deadlines schedules. The future of my research will be to focus on transferring the successful technology to the next phase of commercialization. This seedling grant award is putting my PhD research into high gear, for my final year, and propelling me closer to my career goals of developing new technologies. This is a very exciting time and I anticipate continuing the advancement of this technology to the commercial market and continuing my professional career after obtaining my PhD.

My roots on my family’s ranch and in the small rural schools of Glendale, Oregon taught me what ‘work ethic’ meant and that if you want to succeed you have to approach life with passion and determination. With the help of many local scholarship programs, including my tribe, I attended Oregon State University and obtained my BS in Chemical Engineering. I began my research career there, with Dr. Skip Rochefort, in Polymer Engineering right out of high school. In those four years I became his research lab manager and was an inventor on our US patent POLYETHYLENE PIPE PATCHING SYSTEMS AND METHODS, in collaboration with Timberline Tool in Whitefish, Montana. In my final year at Oregon State, I collaborated on a research project for Supercritical Continuous Biodiesel Production, which is how I found a passion for sustainable energy research.

My tribe led me to AIGC and, with their support, along with the National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship Program and my tribe, I have been able to focus my attention on research and my future career. Dr. Rochefort led me to work with Dr. Alan Weimer, in Colorado, on my PhD, and my recent research success has proven it was the right choice. Outside the research lab and my safety glasses, I have been able to enjoy some of the Colorado active lifestyle. From 100 mile bike rides to ultra-marathons and even becoming a fitness instructor, I strive to maintain a wellrounded lifestyle and avoid the stereotypical engineer habits. I know that without the support of my family, friends, colleagues and organizations, like AIGC and the Department of Energy, the success I have had and wish to achieve would be out of my grasp and I appreciate that support every day. ✦

The Ranier Scholarship Continued from page 17

with a young woman who was curious about the college trail. As we talked, I learned that the biggest concern for her was failure. I told her that failure is inevitable, but failure does not equal collapse. I related this notion to the idea of our people surviving many thousands of years, with sheer determination and strength. I reminded her that we are made of genes that are not only strong, but represent a fabric of this country that connects many people together. I also reinforced that I, too, have failed in my life; I have made bad decisions and have had a hard time in college. She looked at me and said, “Really? But, you seem so stable.” I told her that stability is always changing. She smiled. This young woman then led me into a discussion on how it is difficult to leave her family and our community. She said that the people would not understand the whole college process. I told her that she was right; there are people in our community who do not understand the whole college process, but that is why we need more scholars – to help our people understand why college is the key to success. She smiled again. By the end of our conversation, she was open to the idea that not only could she go to college, but she could be successful (in whatever way she defines the word) in college and in the community. Being a Native Pueblo woman is not about stability, it is about a paradox of learning that leads people in a positive direction. We blaze our own trails. We are not satisfied with doing what is easiest; we

are only satisfied with doing what is the best. Fear is not real and reality is not fearful. Our generation can be a part of education and a part of our communities. John Rainer believed that, as Native people, we should learn and return to our communities to help others. In my view, we need to start at the foundation and heart of our communities – our youth – to make a difference. In the future, I plan to meet with young people, from different Native communities, to open a dialogue about education. My hopes are that, by opening these dialogues and providing students with a safe place to speak, future scholars will be able to ask questions and, hopefully, realize a reduction in their anxiety about college. I plan to have an open format, where students can develop their own ideas and theories about college. I also hope that these sessions turn into a type of action research, where we develop a framework to help future students with the college process. The funds from the Rainer scholarship will aid this action research, by providing the means to obtain guest speakers, compile information and, hopefully, publish findings, to help other communities with the same issues. The goal is to have a resource for students who want to attend college and I see myself as a liaison between education and Native youth. ✦ Leslie Costa-Guerra is an enrolled member of the Pueblo of Tesuque in New Mexico. Leslie is attending New Mexico State University pursing a doctorate degree in special education.

The American Indian Graduate


Internship Benefits

Take Advantage of Every Opportunity Possible by Tamara James


y name is Tamara James and I am a member of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma. I am currently completing my Ph.D. in the Basic Biomedical Sciences program at New York University School of Medicine, in collaboration with the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK). I started college, at Mesa Community College in Mesa, Arizona, eventually transferring to the University of Tulsa, in Oklahoma, to complete my BS. Internships have been vital to my academic and career trajectory, by providing opportunities that otherwise would have not been available to me. I am confident I would not have been as competitive for certain positions without those internship experiences. How did you know, as an undergraduate to pursue these opportunities? My first research experience was as an undergraduate at the University of Tulsa, where I majored in Biology. I was selected to participate in a summer research program through the National Science Foundation (NSF) Research Experience for Undergraduates program (NSFREU). It was from this experience that I learned about other research opportunities, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the importance of hands-on experience. Some theories taught in class did not make sense until I was able to apply them to a specific technique, or when I witnessed results. However, even after this first experience, I was aware that I needed more training in order to be competitive for medical school, my original career choice. Aside from these benefits, this experience introduced me to wonderful mentors who have continued to support me even into my graduate training, Dr. Harrington Wells and Dr. Peggy Hill. These two individuals made all the difference in my future. They were responsible for my first Society for Advancement of Chicanos and


The American Indian Graduate

Tamara James

Native Americans in Science (SACNAS) conference; my first interview at the NIH and, most importantly, wrote wonderful recommendations for my application to a summer internship program offered through the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), Office of Minority Health Research, in Bethesda, MD. I was later told it was due in large part to their recommendations that I was selected. How did each one lead you toward your current passion? Did an internship shape your goals? To this day, I appreciate how my mentor, Dr. Hill, encouraged me to take advantage of research opportunities. When I discussed, with her, my desire to go to medical school, to make a difference in Native American healthcare, she wisely pointed out that sometimes we decide upon careers and majors without knowing all the different needs our community has and how we best can fulfill those needs. My first encounter at NIH was in a lab of intelligent women, which was immediately appealing to me. The principal investigator of the lab, to which I was assigned, Dr. Deborah Hinton, is another example of an excellent mentor. She slowly examined my level of skill at the bench and assigned tasks accordingly. This type

of attention not only developed my technique, but was pertinent to gaining the confidence needed to conduct research. Furthermore, once on the NIH main campus in Bethesda, I was able to see and take advantage of all the possibilities that existed which would have been difficult to do from Oklahoma. I attended scientific seminars at NIH on health disparities and the Native American Research Center for Health (NARCH) conference. I became aware of the amazing potential and opportunities that lay ahead in research. It was during this time that I began to realize exactly what Dr. Hill meant, when she talked about contributing to the health of Native Communities beyond an MD degree.

It can certainly be difficult to commit to an internship, particularly when it is not close to home. At the time I was selected for the NIDDK summer program, I was a single parent to my eight-year old daughter, Czarina. My situation and circumstances required me to think beyond my comfort zone. I knew it wasn’t going to be easy to be away from my family and that it would be financially impossible for frequent visits. I remember discussing this amazing opportunity with my mom, dad and aunt, in Oklahoma. It was important to have this conversation, since they played such a major role in raising my daughter. I am always grateful that we had that conversation, because what I thought would be

Internships have provided me with the advantage of putting me in direct contact with important people, who offered critical information and support. I enjoyed that summer experience so much that, after college, I returned to the NIH, as an Intramural Research Training Award (IRTA) fellow. My research as a postbac fellow was conducted in a molecular microbiology lab and focused on characterization of a highly conserved mutant enzyme, RNA Polymerase. This type of research was very different from my first experience and this internship served as an essential point of transition for me. Tell us about the hidden benefits (accessing people and systems)? After two years in the postbac IRTA program, I decided to change my career trajectory to scientific research and applied to Ph.D. programs. Networking opportunities from this experience allowed me to meet terrific mentors, such as Debbie Cohen, in the NIH Office of Intramural Training and Education. In addition, I was exposed to the different programs offered, including the NIH graduate partnership program (NIHGPP). Through the GPP, NIH has formal partnerships with universities, including New York University School of Medicine, where I was eventually accepted. During my first year of graduate school, I applied for the Ford Foundation Pre-Doctoral Fellowship. Without a doubt, the previous work and recommendations from those experiences made a significant difference in my selection for this award. Deciding between home and internship? How did you make the decision to do either and what does hindsight tell you?

a summer program has turned into eight years, due to my postbac and Ph.D. programs. What comforts me is knowing that, at the time, they agreed this was the smart move and supported me. How did each one lead you toward your current passion? As I near my graduation in the next two months, I have secured my next research position as a post-doctoral fellow with the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD). I am especially excited for my next position as a fellow, because of the research and lab I will join. Furthermore, I was selected for a new Fellows Recruitment Incentive Award (FRIA) that NICHD offers to principal investigators to help recruit those underrepresented in science to NIH. What financial resources are always or sometimes included in an internship? All government and non-government internships, for which I’ve been selected, have had some financial stipend. I have found them to be well-adjusted to the cost of living for a single adult. In my summer experience at the NIH, I earned a stipend and housing was provided. In the postbac IRTA and in my graduate work, in addition to my stipend, I also received financial aid and have been able to defer my student loans and earned benefits for taking public transportation. Non-traditional students or trainees, such as myself, will have to be very

The American Indian Graduate


Internship Benefits resourceful during internships – we ate a lot of spaghetti that year. Fortunately, they are designed for the shortterm in order to get you going - which is, hopefully, to a better position, with higher pay. Internships have the added bonus of offering opportunities that would, otherwise, be financially difficult for some trainees. For example, I did not have funding to attend the American Indian Science and Engineering Society (AISES) conference as a post-bac fellow. It was suggested I seek funds through the Office of the Director of the NIDDK and, surprisingly, those funds were provided. What two or three events/people/offices did you never envision yourself accessing but did so because of an internship? Internships have been beneficial for me. They have provided me hands-on experience, introduced me to new areas of science and, of course, have been terrific for resume building. Additionally, internships have provided me with the advantage of putting me in direct contact with important people, who offered critical information and support. I think internships in the DC area are especially unique due to the many conferences and federal agencies located in this area. Through various activities or functions, I’ve had the opportunity to meet many influential individuals, such as Dr. Francis Collins, Director of NIH, and Dr. Yvette Roubideaux, Director of Indian Health Services. Furthermore, I am confident that, as a direct consequence of my position at the NIH, I was selected to participate in a non-profit Native American program called Americans for Indian Opportunity (AIO). Through this program, I traveled to South America and had the opportunity to meet Bolivian President Morales. I also spoke with Native Bolivians, who expressed a desire to conduct research on some of

their indigenous plants, but weren’t sure how to initiate this process without losing their rights. Advice for Students – What is a good internship? Internships can be very competitive. I recommend looking for a position or program(s) specifically designed for certain groups, such as the minority program I first mentioned. Also, take advantage of any research opportunities at your local university. Research awards or funding from NIH can often include supplementary funds for students underrepresented in science. As a senior level graduate student, I have been asked to join the process of selecting incoming summer students. Participating in this process from the other end, I see that experience usually provides an advantage. My advice for students seeking a successful internships is 1) take advantage of every opportunity possible 2) you can’t plan for where those opportunities will take you, but communicate with your mentor about your goals and expectations 3) be open to new challenges 4) give presentations about your work and attend seminars, journal clubs etc. and 5) don’t give up. Advice for Internship Providers/Mentors – What is a good internship? My advice, for those providing an internship, is to view each incoming student as an individual. Each internship I completed was at a different stage in my life and training. It was the careful attention paid to my specific needs by each mentor that made all the difference in my next move. ✦ Tamara James is available for contact at:

Passion and Internships Continued from page 27

impacts our ability to plan and perform work, throughout the country and the world. SNL actively recruits to fill internships, co-ops and postdoctoral positions, with full-time students, from high school through PhD’s, in both technical and business fields of study. There are also fellowships available, including the Master’s Fellowship Program (MPH) that


The American Indian Graduate

provides exceptional bachelor’s-level minority (American Indian, Asian, Black or Hispanic) candidates, with the opportunity to receive fully-funded Master of Science degrees. To learn more about these and other exciting opportunities, visit the website and follow the ‘Careers’ link to Students and Postdocs. ✦

ANAHSAT Award Continued from page 41

George Mobley

Ashton Smith

Derrick Young

• Tahlia Natachu (Zuni Pueblo) graduated from Zuni High School in Zuni, New Mexico, with a 3.92 GPA. Tahlia will be attending the University of New Mexico to pursue a bachelor’s degree in secondary education.

• Derrick Young (Cherokee Nation) graduated from Tahlequah High School in Tahlequah, Oklahoma, with a 3.90 GPA. Derrick will be attending Oklahoma State University to pursue a Bachelor of Science degree in Pre-Pharmacy. ✦

• Ashton Smith (Apache Tribe of Oklahoma) graduated from Browning High School in Browning, Montana, with a 3.84 GPA. Ashton will be attending Spokane Community College for two years and then transfer to a four-year institution to pursue a bachelor’s degree in psychology.

(The All Native American High School Academic Team program was created by AIGC with a grant from the Tommy Hilfiger Corporate Foundation and is currently maintained with private funds.)

Serving My Community Continued from page 42

problem-solving and how to work in complex team environments. My career now focuses on working in Native communities to lead their health care systems, hospitals and ambulatory centers, toward better health care services. As I continue life’s journey, I am indebted to those people and institutions that invested in my future, which have taken me and my family this far. Today, my sons have a sound foundation and awareness of their family, history and culture. This affords them a perspective of

where they come from, along with the knowledge of the possibilities for where they choose to go in life. With two sons having earned degrees in business and civil engineering and my younger sons committed to earning degrees in environmental science and chemical engineering, they are embodying AIGC’s mission. They are part of multigenerational tribal nation building that will make tomorrow a better day in Indian communities. For that, I am truly grateful. ✦

The American Indian Graduate


Alumni Connection

The Alumni Connection by Susan Duran Class of 2012 Blythe George (Yurok) B. S. – Sociology – Dartmouth College

Note: To insure that we have all your current information, please take a minute to visit our web site ( or send an email to ( to update your information (be sure to include your previous address so we know we have the right individual). We’re very proud of all our alumni, so… while you’re updating your information, please let us know what’s been going on with you. Also, if you would like to submit an article, for our magazine, about your educational experience(s) and/or how education has changed your life, we would welcome your story.

Discover a World of Opportunities

“Thank you so much for your kind wishes. I can honestly say that my GMS certificate has hung on my wall every year of college and I often looked at it as a reminder of what I was capable of and how my success was both for me and my community. I think that this is particularly true in the case of Natives – it is a quote shared by an advisor from NCAI: ‘Out of every 100 Native students who start high school, only 2 will get a 4-year college degree. For every 1,200 Native college students, only 1 will get a Master’s Degree; for every 36,000 STUDENTS, ONLY 1 WILL GET A PHD!’ AIGCS/GMS is key to building that pipeline and increasing those numbers and, as I pursue my higher

education goals, I carry the hopes of those other 35,999 students with me – something that both humbles and flatters me all at once. I thank you for helping guide me to this point and look forward to sharing pictures of my special day, with my AIGCS Family – thank you again, very much, and please take care until we next correspond.” ✦

The Graduate School• (406) 994-4145 • (800) 255-7692


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