Carnell Chosa, a co-founder and graduate of the ASU Pueblo Indian Doctoral Program, is training leaders in his community
Editor's Note: This is the first in a two-part series following members of the first ASU Pueblo Indian Doctoral Cohort. The 10-member group — formed to address a glaring underrepresentation of Native American doctorates — graduated a year ago, and in the time since they’ve expanded leadership programs, women’s rights work and political efforts. ASU Now visited New Mexico to get a close-up view of their progress. The second story is available to read here.
Carnell Chosa has had his doctorate for more than a year, but he says he’s still not used to anyone calling him “Dr.”
“My usual reaction is, ‘Who, me?” he said, adding later, “In a way, it still doesn’t seem real.”
For years, Chosa has operated a leadership program for Native Americans out of an otherwise empty wing of a Santa Fe, New Mexico, high school. His austere, isolated office underscores his quiet, humble nature, but it belies the booming impact of his efforts that now include helping establish the doctoral program that earned him his title: Dr. Chosa.
“Carnell Chosa is a force to be reckoned with,” said Bryan McKinley Jones Brayboy, Arizona State University’s special adviser on American Indian Affairs. Chosa has “a tremendous vision for his work that is focused on communities driving toward their own futures.”
Such goals prompted Brayboy to partner with Chosa’s Leadership Institute at the Santa Fe Indian School to select the inaugural class of the ASU Pueblo Indian Doctoral Program. Brayboy also tapped Chosa to join that first cohort, a 10-member group assembled in 2012 to address a severe underrepresentation of Native American doctorates and doctoral candidates.
Only 1 of every 7,000 American Indian and Alaska Natives who attends high school goes on to obtain a doctorate, Brayboy said. “The number itself surprised me,” he said. “I felt like ASU was best situated to address this and to be able to build and strengthen local capacity in tribal communities.”
According to the National Science Foundation’s 2014 Survey of Earned Doctorates, whites represent 73 percent of all doctorates earned in the last two decades followed by Latinos with 6.5 percent; blacks with 6.4 percent. Native Americans, meanwhile, accounted for 0.3 percent.
When cohort members graduated, they represented about 20 percent of all doctorates earned by Native scholars in 2015, and the program promises to grow. A second Pueblo cohort launched last fall, and a Navajo doctoral program launched this year. Tribes from around the nation, meanwhile, are reaching out to see if they can be included, Brayboy said.
In the year since the first Pueblo cohort graduated, members have returned to their communities and expanded leadership programs, women’s rights work and political efforts.
The program’s roots go back to 2011 when Chosa went looking for an indigenous justice program — focused on the social, legal, economic and human rights inequities within the Native communities. He checked with several universities, but came up empty. Eventually, he reached out to Elizabeth Sumida Huaman at ASU’s School of Social Transformation, which didn’t have such a program at the time, but agreed to co-create one if they could find qualified candidates and funding.