ASU Difference Maker brings positive impact to university, indigenous communities

May 11, 2018

Arizona State University's College of Liberal Arts and Sciences is proud to announce K. Tsianina Lomawaima as this year’s Gary S. Krahenbuhl Difference Maker Award winner.

The annual award was established through generous contributions of faculty, staff and friends of ASU to honor a faculty member who personifies the spirit of difference-making as demonstrated by Krahenbuhl, a former dean of the college. Professor K. Tsianina Lomawaima listens as cohort member Porter Swentzell presents the defense of his dissertation. Professor K. Tsianina Lomawaima, pictured listening to a dissertation defense last month, has been awarded the Gary S. Krahenbuhl Difference Maker Award. Download Full Image

Lomawaima (Mvskoke / Creek Nation, not enrolled) joined ASU in January 2014 as a professor in the School of Social Transformation and Center for Indian Education. She is an interdisciplinary scholar whose work covers indigenous studies, anthropology, education, ethnohistory, history, legal analysis and political science.

Though her work covers many areas, Lomawaima has defined herself as an indigenous studies scholar since she made the switch from an anthropology department at the University of Washington to an American Indians Studies program at the University of Arizona in 1994.

“That was a liberating moment for me, to realize I’m aware of what I want to be which is to say: I’m an indigenous studies scholar. I don’t define myself as an anthropologist, I don’t define myself as a historian ... although I do that work, I define myself as an indigenous studies scholar. That was a wonderful moment,” Lomawaima said.

Lomawaima is a prominent American Indian academic and author; her research includes the status of Native people as U.S. citizens and Native nations as indigenous sovereigns, the role of Native nations in shaping U.S. federalism, and the history of American Indian education.

Her first dissertation project and book, “They Called it Prairie Light: The Story of Chilocco Indian School” focused on the history of the Chilocco Indian Agricultural School, one of the federal off-reservation boarding schools. She interviewed 60 students of the school, including her father who was removed from his mother by court order in 1927 and sent to the school for the majority of his childhood, until 1935.

“My most recent project is looking at the early 20th century conversations and debates in the U.S. about U.S. citizenship. The late 19th century is really when those conversations came to a head after the civil war, after reconstruction, all of a sudden the U.S. has to deal with emancipation, enfranchised African American voters. That really raises the question, what does citizenship really mean? It was taken for granted before that it was property [owning], white males and now that radically shifted.”  

This upcoming academic year, Lomawaima is taking a research leave and research fellowship at the Clements Center for Southwest History at Southern Methodist University in Dallas to focus on her scholarly work. She’s currently working on two books and says as much as she loves it, a year without teaching nor administrative responsibilities will allow her more time for research and writing.

“I’m enthusiastic and hopeful that I can — at the very least — get a good chunk of the citizenship book finished if not in really good shape. And then I have a second book project that’s more focused on what was happening in Indian Country in that 20th century moment as a follow up.”

Though she says her research on schooling and Indian Country has been fairly widely read, she believes her largest scholarly impact has been helping to found the Native American and Indigenous Studies Association in 2007.

“[The association] is now a very robust international meeting that draws about 1,000 people a year from across the world. That’s really what has enabled the fluoresce of international indigenous studies work is how many of us have come to know one another,” Lomawaima said.

“I think one of the things we’ve seen, in the way research questions are being formulated and the way in which publications are resulting from that and intervention practices, is that we’re seeing international collaborations. ... Anthologies and encyclopedias and handbooks are being published that are not so nationally insular anymore in terms of the authors they draw upon and the perspectives they share,” she said.

In addition to her teaching and research, Lomawaima has distinguished herself as a Difference Maker at ASU. She served for the past three years on the CLAS Dean’s Faculty Advisory Committee, the elected panel of scholars responsible for reviewing all promotion and tenure cases for the college. This role in particular, she said, is one that she enjoyed and learned the most from.

“You learn so much about the phenomenal, inspiring work that people [in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences] are doing. I think it’s fair to say that committee does its work very, very carefully, very scrupulously, with great integrity and you feel like it’s worthwhile work,” she said.

“Dr. Lomawaima has been a thoughtful and powerful voice on this committee,” said Nancy Gonzales, Foundation Professor and associate dean of faculty. “She consistently offered a balanced understanding of the diverse ways in which faculty achieve excellence.”

Throughout her 30 years in academia, Lomawaima has dedicated significant time and energy to program building and institutional service, so receiving the Gary S. Krahenbuhl Difference Maker Award has been particularly meaningful.

“I really believe in understanding how our institutions work and I don’t know a better way to do that than to participate in the various ways you’re called upon to help out at the college and university level. It’s really quite rare or unexpected or unheard of in my experience for there to be any recognition for that. I’m very touched by this.”

Kirsten Kraklio

Content Strategist and Writer, The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences


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ASU's second Pueblo Indian doctoral cohort puts community first

May 9, 2018

Indigenous doctoral graduates ready to make a difference after three years of intense study

Most people go to college to enhance their education, bolster their professional status and increase their earning power. But a doctoral cohort from New Mexico got their degrees to enrich their communities and build up their nation.

Meet the Arizona State University Pueblo Indian doctoral program Class of 2018.

“When our tribal leaders came to our orientation to give their blessing and a word of encouragement, they told us that we were about to embark on a spiritual journey,” said Doreen Bird, who received a doctorate from ASU’s School of Transformation this week after three years of hard work, research and sacrifice. “We realized at that point it wasn’t about us anymore. It’s about our communities.”

Bird is one of six people in the cohort, which saw its second class graduate on May 7.

Weeks before, Bird wore traditional Pueblo attire to her dissertation where she faced a roomful of Native American scholars.

“They were tough and challenged us every step of the way,” said Bird, who quit her job to finish her dissertation on Pueblo research methodologies. “I’m relieved it’s over but excited for the new journey that awaits all of us.”

Native American group photo

Pueblo cohort members Christina Castro, Porter Swentzell, Amanda Montoya (front), Peggy Bird (front), Rachell Tenorio and Doreen Bird pose for a portrait following the defense of their dissertations on ASU's Tempe campus on Thursday, April 12, 2018. Photo by Deanna Dent/ASU Now

The program was launched in 2012 as a partnership with New Mexico Pueblos to find solutions to complex issues facing their communities. The hope was for the graduates to be able to establish research agendas, engage in policymaking and enact strategies to address these challenges.

Built with the Leadership Institute at the Santa Fe Indian School, which is under the leadership of the 19 Pueblos of New Mexico, the program facilitates the training of practitioner-researcher-scholars within Pueblo communities.

The members of the cohort conducted their studies in New Mexico, creating a unique set of logistical opportunities. Coursework was conducted primarily through in-person courses with ASU-based faculty and focusing on issues of Pueblo peoples. These included Native health, education, families and communities. Their coursework also included international indigenous-community visits and concentrated training in indigenous research methodology and methods.

The program is led by School of Social Transformation faculty members Elizabeth Sumida Huaman, associate professor of indigenous education and a senior researcher with the Leadership Institute, and Bryan McKinley Jones Brayboy, President’s Professor, director of the Center of Indian Education and ASU’s special adviser to the president on American Indian Affairs.

“This program is a testament to what awesome results can be achieved from real collaboration with indigenous communities, which involves trust, creativity, and hard work,” Huaman said. “All of us who put this program together — the generations who produced the students, and the students themselves — exemplify this … this graduating cohort is the realization of our collective best hopes. They are intensely strong, intellectually and as researchers, and they are among the best people I know.”

Brayboy said Pueblos receiving their degrees is a monumental achievement; only one out of every 5,000 Native Americans and indigenous peoples in the U.S. who reach the ninth grade will go on to obtain a doctorate. He believes the achievement will help cohort members strengthen their pueblosThe term pueblo can also be used to describe the community, in addition to the people..

“I love this program, because it allows us to enact ASU’s vision that we work with tribal nations to create futures of their own making,” Brayboy said. “This process is exactly what self-determination looks like: tribal peoples doing work for their tribal communities. It’s an honor to be a part of the work.”

Amanda Montoya is a Taos Pueblo community planner and defended her thesis in April. Her work is focused on why educated people end up leaving their pueblos, otherwise known as “brain drain.”

“They might leave for a time but they always come back for cultural connections,” Montoya said. “I’ve discovered it’s not just a problem with pueblos but rural communities.”

Montoya said she experienced a brain drain of another kind in obtaining her degree.

“It was a huge sacrifice,” Montoya said. “The day I finished my dissertation, I took a deep breath and said, ‘I can be part of the world again!’”

The program was also a struggle for Christina Castro, whose grandfather Benjamin died on Feb. 6.

“I wasn’t sure I was going to make it. I was going to give up but then I thought, ‘My grandfather wouldn’t have wanted that for me,’” she said. “He was so proud that I was going to be the first doctorate in the family. I was coping with that loss, then gained strength from that loss.”

Peggy Bird, who is a pro tem judge in the Nambe and Taos pueblos, presented a powerful dissertation on Pueblo women’s voices, knowledge and resilience in the face of colonization, which she says still exists.

“We’re still dealing with colonization and different policies that are being imposed upon us,” said Bird. “But if you think about our survival, it’s amazing we’re still here … and we’re going to continue to be here.”

Porter Swentzell, a faculty member at the Institute of American Indian Arts, said there were moments of levity in those three intense years of study.

“One of the special things about this cohort is the humor we share,” said Swentzell, whose dissertation was on place-based education and sovereignty. “We have our own inside jokes. We spent a lot of time laughing, joking around, having a good time. All of that laughter is valuable in getting us to this point.”

June L. Lorenzo, a member of the 2015 cohort, attended last month’s dissertation defenses and was relieved to be an observer and not a presenter.

“It’s interesting to see how the energy of the first cohort has continued,” Lorenzo said. “I’m extremely proud of everyone.”

The cohort capped off the program with a visit to Canada in March for an academic exchange with indigenous health scholars at the University of Manitoba in Winnipeg. While there, the cohort competed in an Indigenous 3-Minute Thesis competition held at the University of Winnipeg where cohort members Rachell Tenorio and Doreen Bird took first and third place, respectively.

In addition to Swentzell, Montoya, Castro, Tenorio, and Doreen and Peggy Bird, there are five other Pueblo cohort members on a separate track set for graduation in the 2018–19 academic year.

The Pueblo Indian doctorate cohort receives support from The Leadership Institute at the Santa Fe Indian School, the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, and ASU’s School of Social Transformation in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

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'Soul sisters': Never too late to get degree

May 8, 2018

Members of Gila River Culture and Language Teacher Cohort support each other as they earn ASU master's degrees

In the 1950s, after the Indian Relocation Act was enacted, Priscilla Espinoza’s family moved from the Gila River Indian Community in the far southeast Valley to Southern California.

She met her husband, Phillip, there. They raised three sons. And they felt the sting of discrimination and racism that was commonplace to her people in those days. They became activists, joining the Brown Berets, a group modeled after the Black Panthers in the 1960s.

Espinoza was marching with them in Los Angeles during August 1970 when newspaper editor Ruben Salazar was killed. Salazar was struck by a tear-gas canister fired by a sheriff’s deputy.

“I was there, marching and dodging tear gas,” she said. “It really did make an impact, and a lot changed in Southern California. Because of that big march they started getting more minority teachers, and there was a big push for equal education.”

She put her own higher education, however, on the backburner. Through it all, she never forgot her place among the Akimel O’otham people in Arizona.

“I never lost my identity when I left,” Espinoza said. “I take it with me wherever I go.”

After Phillip, to whom she was married for 42 years, passed away seven years ago, the 69-year-old great-grandmother of two and grandmother of six felt a pull from home and a push from her late husband, who had told her to “keep going, keep living.”

“He was my greatest supporter,” she said.

Now she is among five women from the Gila River Indian Community who call themselves the “soul sisters.” Now, they are graduating grandmas and mothers — and remarkable role models for the people of their community and beyond.

Edwardine Thomas

“We incorporate the O’otham language in our visits because a lot of the parents do not know our language. So they learn along with their kids.” — Edwardine Thomas

Ranging in age from 36 to 69, Espinoza, Edwardine Thomas, Nina Allison, Marcella Hall and Starleen Somegustava have completed work on master's degrees in interdisciplinary studies as members of the Gila River Culture and Language Teacher Cohort, a partnership between Arizona State University’s Center for Indian Education and New College of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences, and the Gila River Indian Community Tribal Education Department. The first-of-its-kind program trains future teachers on their home reservation with a focus on tribal history and keeping alive the Akimel O’otham language.

The group has formed a tight bond.  

“We have all been through a lot of stuff together,” said Thomas, a 56-year-old grandmother of four. “These are my sisters. We’ve gone through a lot of stuff. We’re still going through a lot of stuff. Every week we come to class and we lean on each other.” 

All have experienced similar challenges while pursuing their education — from getting back into good study and attendance habits, to feeling a sense of responsibility for their immediate and extended families that is such an important piece of their culture, to balancing work and school, to solving the mysteries that are laptop computers and PowerPoint presentations.

Perhaps the greatest challenge was simply believing that, despite their age and responsibilities, they could achieve an advanced degree from ASU.

“I’ve been going to school off and on since 2014, starting at South Mountain (Community College), and I would say this year has been the most stressful year ever,” said Hall, 36, a cultural instructor for fifth- through eighth-grade students at Sacaton Middle School, about an hour south of Phoenix. She has a daughter and is caring for a niece and nephew.

“I’m handling it, and it’s hard,” she added. “Coming here and letting the ladies know and having their support, it gets easier.”

Espinoza and Thomas are the elders of the group. Each happened upon the cohort by happenstance.

“I always tell people I’m a lifelong learner,” Thomas said. “I’ve been going to school since after high school. I went to college for one year but had to drop out, just for family things. I had to take care of my siblings. So I had to work.”

She has worked for 26 years at the Blackwater Community School in Coolidge. When she attended an in-service teacher training program at the Wild Horse Pass Hotel and Casino, it led her back to school.

“There were people there from South Mountain (Community College), and they asked if any people were interested in obtaining their degrees,” she said. “So that’s where it started.”

Priscilla Espinoza

“I’m so proud of who I am and proud of what I represent to the people here. They trust me because they know I’m a member of the community, too. So my heart is full.” — Priscilla Espinoza

Now, she is the only member of her family to earn a college degree. Her work at Blackwater focuses on making home visits to people in the community and working with parents and children to reach child-development milestones in gross and fine motor skills and language.

“We incorporate the O’otham language in our visits because a lot of the parents do not know our language,” she said. “So they learn along with their kids.”

She said her ultimate goal is to establish a full-immersion school in the Gila River Indian Community that all of the soul sisters might someday work at.

To that end, the women will join forces this summer to bring together members of the community’s seven districts for a camp that would immerse participants in the O’otham language and culture. 

“We’re going to try to do it for three weeks and see how that goes,” Thomas said. “The rest of my cohort members are going to be in on that, too.

“It’s going to be limited to about 10 families per district, and hopefully this will be like a steppingstone for other people to come and join our group, because we’re open to anyone helping us — other community members that are fluent in language or dances or basket making.”

When Espinoza returned to the area to be near one of her sons living in Maricopa, she paid a visit to the Gila River Indian Community Governance Center to complete some paperwork. She and her husband had hoped to retire in the community.

“I had retired from a school district in California, where I was a special education (instructional assistant),” she said. “I was at the governance center to talk to a lady about my paperwork. I wasn’t looking for a job. This young lady was putting up flyers that said ‘special needs (teacher) urgently needed.’

“I said, ‘I used to do that for years.’ Long story short, they interviewed me that day, got my paperwork and hired me on the spot.”

She was asked to work with a young boy with cerebral palsy, who couldn’t walk or talk.

“He could only say ‘mama’ and ‘no,’ ” she said. “I put all my energy into this little boy. ... 

“I would see him every morning and say, ‘Good morning, what is your name? My name is Priscilla.’ I said that over and over for six months. One morning I said, ‘Hi, buddy,’ and he looked at me and said, ‘Hi, ’scilla!’ Oh my gosh, I knew then that this is it.”

Gregory Mendoza, who was Gila River Indian Community governor at the time, told her he had gotten a report about her work with the young boy, who now uses a walker.

“He said, ‘I want you to get into this program we have going on, this cohort. We want you to get your degree. We need people like you to help our people here.’ So that was it,” Espinoza said.

“I’m so proud of who I am and proud of what I represent to the people here. They trust me because they know I’m a member of the community, too. So my heart is full.”

The women in the cohort — many of whom are able to participate because of private giving — agree that they are motivated most by what they represent for their families and community members. Espinoza said the cohort members hope their successes will “snowball.”

“When family members see each one of us, the five of us, I think it will trickle down,” she said. “It will snowball, pick up momentum. That’s what we’re hoping for.”

Members of the Gila River Culture and Language Teacher Cohort

“I told myself I had to get back on track. You do it for your kids. You do it for your family. You’re that role model. You’re that example.” — Nina Allison (left, pictured with fellow cohort member Marcella Hall)

“I tell my students, ‘Don’t be a statistic,’” Hall added. “We have a lot of high school dropouts, and not many of our people are going to college. I say, ‘Make your people proud. Make your family proud of you. We need our people in our communities sitting in the seats we are in as teachers, as educators, as tribal council members. You are all going to be filling our seats.’”

Allison, a mother of four and grandmother of three, briefly stopped her studies in the program when a nephew was killed in a car accident. He had just graduated from high school. 

The desire to set an example for others kept her from giving up.

“I didn’t do homework. I didn’t do readings. That was a struggle for me,” she said. “... I told myself I had to get back on track. You do it for your kids. You do it for your family. You’re that role model. You’re that example.

“You have ups and downs and have struggles, but you go on.” 

Thomas tells young people to get their education while they’re young instead of waiting like the members of the cohort.

“If I could turn back time, I wish I would have stayed in school and finished (college) after high school,” she said. 

“(I tell them) ‘You can do it. Just set your priorities straight and know your family will always be behind you.’” 

The Akimel O’otham language

In 2009, the Gila River Indian Community adopted an orthography — a system of written words — for their Akimel O’otham language. Keeping that language alive is part of the mission of the Gila River Culture and Language Teacher Cohort. 

A sampling of words from the language:

  • Soith (pronounced: so yeth) — love
  • Sha pai masma (pronounced: sha pie masama) — How are you?
  • Sape (pronounced: saw pa) — fine
  • Tho epom ñei (pronounced: do umpam nyeh) — will see you again
  • Je’e (pronounced: j’uh) — mother
  • O:g (pronounced: awg) — father
  • Ga ga’a (pronounced: ga ga ah) — paternal grandmother
  • Lu lu’u (pronounced: luu luu ooh) — maternal grandmother
  • Vosk (pronounced: vawsk) — paternal grandfather
  • Ba ba’a (pronounced: ba ba’a) — maternal grandfather

Written by Bob Young; this story originally appeared in the summer issue of ASU Thrive magazine. Top photo: (From left) Priscilla Espinoza, Marcella Hall, Edwardine Thomas, Nina Allison and (not pictured) Starleen Somegustava have formed a close relationship through the Gila River program. Photos by Deanna Dent/ASU Now

MFA graduate explores her family roots through photography

May 3, 2018

Editor’s note: This is part of a series of profiles for spring 2018 commencement

Renée Dennison’s grandmother was born June 14, 1910. More than 100 years later, Dennison decided to document her grandmother’s traditional way of life on the Navajo reservation. Photo of Renee Dennison Renée Dennison’s grandmother served as inspiration for her master's thesis in photography. Download Full Image

“My earliest childhood memories are those where the family gathered around the fire listening to the many stories told by family, and, in particular, my grandmother,” said Dennison, who is graduating with her MFA in photography.

As a young woman, Dennison spent a decade in Washington D.C., where she worked full time, earned a degree in accounting from University of Maryland and earned an MBA in finance and investments from George Washington University.

“After years of living away from the reservation and my home, I felt a distance, not just in miles, but in spirit,” she said. “Upon my father’s passing I returned home and confronted the distance that had grown between me and the place and people I loved.”

For the past 20 years, Dennison has lived in Arizona. She spent more than two decades working with Native American organizations and tribal governments before deciding to earn her MFA. Her grandmother was 105 when Dennison began the work that would become her thesis.

“The project is titled Towering House, Kinyaa’áanii, and it is the Diné clan name that identifies my grandmother and her children and their children and so on,” Dennison said. “My grandmother’s life may look simple to an outsider; however, it is a difficult life, a hard life. Her struggle to maintain her independence and dignity facing many everyday challenges is a testament to, and a reminder of, the beauty, strength and resiliency of the human spirit. My grandmother’s legacy extended four generations, and she remains a lasting inspiration to me and in the way to live my life.”

Question: What was your “aha” moment, when you realized you wanted to study the field you majored in? 

Answer: When I learned how to manually use my camera and see the photographs that I could make, I felt a sense of “this is where I am meant to be” and never looked back. At that moment, I also knew I wanted to take my photography to the next level and study photography from a fine art perspective.

Q: What’s something you learned while at ASU — in the classroom or otherwise — that surprised you, that changed your perspective?

A: I learned that the more personal a story is, the more people relate to it.  

Q: Why did you choose ASU?

A: ASU was the best fit for me in terms of the location and the work (photography) that I wanted to pursue.

Q: What’s the best piece of advice you’d give to those still in school?

A: Be present and enjoy this period of time.

Q: What was your favorite spot on campus, whether for studying, meeting friends or just thinking about life?

A: The Design Library at the Design School for the countless number of photography books, brainstorming sessions and the mint iced tea from Charlie’s.

Q: What are your plans after graduation?

A: After graduation, I plan to take a break for a couple of weeks and begin marketing my work and start research for my next photography project, which will likely involve Native people.

Q: If someone gave you $40 million to solve one problem on our planet, what would you tackle?

A: I would create more art programs at schools by diversifying the $40 million in various investments and ensure that money is available for future generations.

Sarah A. McCarty

Marketing and communications coordinator, Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts


Student finds a home in ASU Law’s Indian Legal Program

May 3, 2018

Editor’s note: This is part of a series of profiles for spring 2018 commencement

Ask Solveig Parsons where her hometown is, and she’ll tell you she moved around too much to have one. After attending Messiah College in Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania, where she majored in French and politics, she then enrolled at NYU Law. Solveig Parsons Solveig Parsons is part of the ASU Law Class of 2018. Download Full Image

But after falling in love with Phoenix during an internship, she found herself looking into the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law and its Indian Legal Program.

So she transferred to ASU Law, where she felt at home.

“I've found ASU Law to be a very supportive learning environment, and the ILP particularly is just an outstanding group of professors, staff and students,” she said.

And as she prepares to graduate, she is confident she can work anywhere with her ASU Law degree in hand.

“I was a bit concerned about whether the degree would limit me regionally to where I could work,” she said. “But in the end, I haven't found that to be an issue, because the Indian Legal Program here is recognized around the country. My advice to others who are interested in working outside the Southwest would be to take advantage of ASU's many study-abroad, externship opportunities, and fall/spring-break trips. Those allow the networking and experiences to make your degree relevant anywhere you go.”

Question: What was your “aha” moment, when you realized you wanted to go to law school?

Answer: It was a gradual process, no one “aha” moment. I knew it wasn't something that I wanted to launch into unless I had really considered the pros and cons. 

Q: Tell me something interesting about your time at ASU Law and/or an accomplishment that you’re particularly proud of?

A: My favorite experiences have been doing the National Native American Law Student Association Moot Court during 2L, and doing the Indian Legal Clinic during 3L.

Q: What outside activities did you pursue at ASU Law?

A: A lot of community gardening. Time working in the dirt counteracts the time spent in the books.

Q: What’s something you learned while at ASU Law — in the classroom or otherwise — that surprised you and/or changed your perspective?

A: I found attorneys who I could look up to, because they combined a strong set of personal values with their advocacy. The way attorneys are portrayed, and even how they portray themselves, is being totally directed by their clients and not having any personal perspective or compass. I was so glad to find out that isn't true.

Q: What’s advice would you give to those still in school?

A: Take care of your mental health and your relationships with people outside law school. 

Q: What was your favorite spot on campus, whether for studying, meeting friends or just thinking about life?

A: I typically only went to campus for the mandatory stuff. Law students tend to emanate a lot of stress, myself included, so I'd rather work in a Starbucks or at home. But this year I've spent a lot of time in clinic — it's studying/friends/thinking — it's pretty much where clinic students live. 

Q: What’s your particular area of interesting in the legal field, and what are your plans after graduation?

A: I didn't go into law school with a particular plan of what I would do, but I knew what I wanted to become. I wanted to become an advocate who could help people in my community access the legal system. I'm currently job searching, so I'm not sure yet exactly where that will be.

Q: If someone gave you $40 million to solve one problem on our planet, what would you tackle?

A: The loss of biodiversity in our food system. That or the lack of maternity and paternity leave in the U.S. It'd be a tough choice.

Executive Director, Marketing and Communications, Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law


Public health graduate looks to impact Native American health care and policy

May 1, 2018

Editor’s note: This is part of a series of profiles for spring 2018 commencement.

Christina Haswood (Tódich'ii'nii, Dibéłzhíní, Naasht'ézhi Tábąąhá, Kinyaa'áanii) has been a Sun Devil at heart since 2010, when she first visited campus while in high school. This May, she’ll graduate with a Bachelor of Science in public health. ASU graduate Christina Haswood poses outside Normal School Christina Haswood is graduating this May with a Bachelor of Science in public health. Download Full Image

“Being in Phoenix — 1,000 miles away from [her hometown in] Lawrence, Kansas — these past three years has taught me more than just academics. I did a lot of growing up and could not be any more thankful for the friends, mentors and everyone who has crossed my path,” Haswood said.

Though her academic focus is in public health, Haswood worked at the American Indian Policy Institute in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences as a student office assistant where she gained valuable experience.

“My experience at [the policy institute] is one of the highlights of ASU. Working under this great team, I have learned valuable skills that I carry throughout my life. The support from the staff helped pushed me through hard times academically and helped with the homesickness as everyone felt like an aunt and uncle to me. They taught me professionalism, Native leadership, and I knew I could come to anyone for advice. As a future Native American professional, I am excited for the day my path will cross with the institute where I can contribute my skills on a professional level. Ahéhee' [Thank you]!”

Haswood answered a few questions about her experience at ASU and her plans for the future.

Question: Why did you choose ASU?

Answer: I fell in love with ASU when I helped my cousin move into his summer dorm for a math program at Barrett in 2010 and knew I had to come here once I graduated high school. ASU was also closest to my family who live on the Navajo reservation and those in the Phoenix area. This location allowed me to pursue my passion of learning about public health in Native American communities.

Q: Why did you choose your major/area of study?

A: I originally started on a nursing path at Haskell Indian Nations University with the intent to transfer into the nursing program at ASU, but the memorization required by the curriculum did not work for me. I wanted to stay in the health field and eventually found a more fitting path in public health when, in the summer of 2014, I completed internships in the community health sector in the Washington, D.C., area and in the summer of 2015, public health internships specific to Navajo tribes in Arizona.

Q: What do you hope to do with your degree?

A: My degree in public health will serve as a strong foundation for me to be successful in graduate school. Ultimately, I hope to become a leader in federal Native American health care and policy. My goal is to work in Washington, D.C., alongside legislators or to become one myself and be a representative for my people, to have a seat at the table, where decisions made affect the lives of my Native people. I also hope to conduct more research and contribute to the Native American research field and eventually become a professor at an academic institution and teach the future health leaders about Native American public health.

Q: How has your experience at ASU prepared you for the future?

A: Because ASU is closely linked to many Arizona tribes, being here has enabled me to develop tribal knowledge and gain an understanding of the struggles that the 22 Arizona tribes face. My three years at ASU has opened many doors for me with internships and connections that range from Arizona Health Department, Maricopa Health Department, Urban IHS [Indian Health Service] facilities, Intertribal Council of Arizona, American Indian Policy Institute and more! ASU has set me up for success in my field, and I am very thankful for all the opportunities and knowledge I have learned from the faculty and staff.

Q: What’s next after graduation?

A: I will be pursuing my master's in public health with a concentration in public health management at the University of Kansas Medical Center in Kansas City, Kansas.

Indigenous studies scholar K. Tsianina Lomawaima elected to American Academy of Arts and Sciences

April 26, 2018

Arizona State University School of Social Transformation Professor K. Tsianina Lomawaima has been elected as a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

The academy's Class of 2018 is a diverse group of 213 individuals who have demonstrated excellence in their respective fields.“The new members of the academy were elected in 25 categories and are affiliated with 125 institutions,” according to an academy press release. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, actor Tom Hanks and former President Barack Obama are among the new members with Lomawaima. K. Tsianina Lomawaima K. Tsianina Lomawaima is a professor in ASU's School of Social Transformation. Download Full Image

“It is a privilege to be included in such an accomplished and illustrious cohort of new members,” Lomawaima said. “I am especially thrilled to be inducted with three fellow Native members — Tim Giago, Henrietta Mann and Robert Warrior — and to join esteemed colleague Philip J. Deloria.”

Lomawaima is a professor and indigenous studies scholar at the School of Social Transformation. Her research incorporates indigenous studies, anthropology, education, ethnohistory, history, legal analysis and political

science, as she explores the status of Native people as U.S. citizens and Native nations as indigenous sovereigns, the role of Native nations in shaping U.S. federalism, and the history of American Indian education.

Founded in 1780, the academy is one of the oldest learned societies in the country. This independent policy research center focuses on championing scholarship, civil dialogue and useful knowledge. Its class of 2018 joins the existing 4,900 fellows and 600 foreign honorary members, which features notable icons including Benjamin Franklin, Alexander Hamilton, Albert Einstein and Martin Luther King Jr.

The American Academy of Arts & Sciences Class of 2018 will be inducted in October at a ceremony in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Communications specialist, School of Social Transformation


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Mary Lou Fulton doctoral candidate hopes to inspire other Native Americans

April 25, 2018

Jameson Lopez will become a tenure-track professor in Tucson in the fall

Editor’s note: This is part of a series of profiles for spring 2018 commencement

When a teenage boy in his community committed suicide, Jameson Lopez decided he wanted to do something for his tribe.

That something was dedicating his life to higher education and finding opportunities for Native Americans to obtain their degrees.

“Native students often have problems adjusting to college life because of historical forced assimilation and colonization,” said Lopez, a Quechan tribe member from Fort Yuma, California, who is earning a PhD in education policy and evaluation at Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College. “Culturally, our traditions are much different and often undervalued. We are striving to make economic advances using traditional knowledge that was impossible in previous decades because of societal disadvantages.”

The 32-year-old Lopez said he immediately connected with the Native community on campus after a four-year stint in the U.S. Army. Forging friendships and finding mentors is what eventually got him through, said Lopez.

Today, Lopez serves as a mentor to many youth and often travels to Native communities to deliver a message of hope for a better life.

“It all boils down to — if I’m asked to say or do something and I don’t, that opportunity might go to someone who isn’t Native American,” Lopez said. “Then it becomes a lost opportunity for Native youth to hear and experience something positive.”

After Lopez graduates on May 7, he is headed to Tucson where he will become a tenure-track professor at the University of Arizona and continue his research in Indian Country. He expressed that he wants to support tribal nation building by advancing the capacity of tribal nations to collect and analyze data. He hopes that his effort to collect data with tribes will inform tribal decisions and policies that create new opportunities for economic advances for Native people.    

Lopez recently spoke to ASU Now about his positive experiences at the university.

Question: What was your “aha” moment, when you realized you wanted to study education?

Answer: There are million “aha” moments. But this is the first one that stuck out when you asked that question. I was attending a wake under a brush arbor on a remote reservation for a young kid who had committed suicide. Something that was common to the community but uncommon to our traditions as Native people. I knew I wanted to give back and help in some way. I saw education as an avenue of hope. But later on I realized that it couldn’t be any education, it had to be an education that could sustain and revitalize Native communities through nation building. So I started focusing on education as a means of nation building in indigenous communities.

Q: What’s something you learned while at ASU?

A: I remember being taught in elementary school about inventors such as Thomas Edison, Sir Isaac Newton, Benjamin Franklin, etc. You ever wonder why we were mostly taught about white, European-descendant inventors in elementary school? Surely there were inventors from other ethnicities that we could have learned about. In my later years of life, I realized there were actually lots of inventors from various ethnicities and even Native inventors.

A few years ago, I was listening to a lecture from a Native scholar here at ASU. They were talking about assimilation, etc., but the lecturer was making a point about traditional Native marriages and went on to say that it was acceptable (in some tribes) for older Native women to marry young, "wild" native men. Because it was believed that the older woman would "tame" the young wild man. I looked at my friend, looked back at the professor, looked back at my friend, looked back at the professor, and looked back at my friend and said, “Dang, Natives invented cougars!” But in all seriousness, while at ASU, I found out more things that were invented by Natives.

Q: Why did you choose ASU?

A: I (had) just got home from Iraq. I was accepted into a few other major universities, but just coming home from the war, I wanted to be close to home, family and friends. ASU took a chance on me. I didn’t have the best GRE scores, but I believe my community engagement was what the program was interested in. So in some ways, ASU also chose me. It was a reciprocal choosing.

Q: What’s the best piece of advice you’d give to those still in school?

A: I started graduate school right after I got out of the Army. I was still a little rigid. Whenever my colleagues would get stressed I would say, “Don’t worry, no one is going to die.” I’ve got a little smarter since then and now say to those who get stressed, “Don’t worry, we’ll all die … eventually.” Keep your life in perspective. You just might fail, which is OK. Get back up and keep going. And honestly if you’re not failing a little bit, you’re probably not doing enough. And remember — worst-case scenario, you fail out of college. To me, that’s not what makes someone a failure, though; not trying is what makes someone a failure. Remember that your heart follows what you treasure. Your treasure doesn’t follow your heart. So face life intently, embrace fear (everyone is afraid), when your heart beats faster take some deep breaths and then face life with open arms, wide eyes and a desire to do good in this world. And quit taking student loans if you can help it!

Q: What was your favorite spot on campus?

A: The Center for Indian Education is my favorite spot because of the people. I’ve never been in a place with so many indigenous scholars researching, advocating and strategizing to move indigenous communities forward.

Q: What are your plans after graduation?

A: Tenure-track assistant professor of higher education at the University of Arizona.

Q: If someone gave you $40 million to solve one problem on our planet, what would you tackle?

A: Start an urban intertribal indigenous college that focuses on educating Native students to address issues concerning; missing and murdered indigenous women, nation building, sustaining and revitalizing cultural traditions, and the self-determination and sovereignty of tribal nations.

Top photo courtesy of Chrissy Blake

ASU students place first, third at Indigenous 3MT competition

March 28, 2018

Students from the Pueblo graduate cohort program at Arizona State University’s School of Social Transformation recently placed first and third at the Indigenous 3MT (Three Minute Thesis) competition held at the University of Manitoba.

The University of Manitoba’s Ongomiizwin Research and the University of Winnipeg co-hosted the Pueblo cohort for a field-based course in Winnipeg, Canada, and the culminating event was the Indigenous 3MT. The competition was held at the University of Winnipeg and co-sponsored by its Office of Indigenous Affairs on March 7. Approximately 20 master's degree and doctoral students shared their research. Students from the University of Manitoba, the University of Winnipeg, and Arizona State University participated in the competition. Three winners of the Indigenous 3MT competition Winners of the Indigenous 3MT competition: Doreen Bird (third place), Chelsie Parayko (second place), Rachell Tenorio (first place). Download Full Image

As the name of the event implies, students were given three minutes to explain their theses to a panel of judges. In addition to the time constraint, participants had to follow a restrictive list of rules:

• A single static PowerPoint slide is permitted (no slide transitions, animations or “movement” of any kind, the slide is to be presented from the beginning of the presentation). The slide must have minimum 0.5" margins for key information.

• No additional electronic media (e.g., sound and video files) are permitted.

• No additional props (e.g., costumes, musical instruments, laboratory equipment) are permitted.

• Presentations are limited to three minutes maximum and challengers exceeding three minutes are disqualified.

• Presentations are to be spoken word (e.g., no poems, raps, or songs).

• Presentations are considered to have commenced when a presenter starts their presentation through movement or speech.

• For any images, photos, or diagrams used on the slide, if not created by the presenter, the presenter must have explicit written permission to use the image and the source must be credited.

School of Social Transformation student Rachell Tenorio placed first with her thesis, “Deconstructing trauma.”

“The 3MT competition was challenging but the importance of relaying my dissertation to a general audience was my goal,” Tenorio said. “I wanted everyone, from all backgrounds, to be able to understand my dissertation. So, with that in mind, and watching examples of YouTube videos online, I was able to practice and time myself to provide an effective and winning presentation.”

Rachell Tenorio presenting her thesis.

Rachell Tenorio presents her thesis for the 3MT competition, translating her work for a general audience in a tight timeframe.

Doreen Bird, also from the School of Social Transformation, placed third with her dissertation titled, “Pueblo research methodologies.”

“It was a great experience participating in the Indigenous 3MT,” Bird said. She continued, “It gave us a chance to streamline the way we talk about our dissertation research and connect with an audience and judges we had never met before.”

The University of Queensland developed the 3MT research communication competition in 2008 to celebrate the exciting research of PhD students around the world, while challenging those students to present their research in a compelling way to a general audience, within the constraint of three minutes. Today, more than 200 universities host 3MT competitions.

“The Pueblo cohort’s participation in the Indigenous 3MT competition represents an incredible and pivotal moment in both how we as indigenous peoples are doing research and how we talk about that research,” said Elizabeth Sumida Huaman, who leads the Pueblo graduate cohort program at ASU.

“The past generations for indigenous peoples have been marked by exploitative research targeting our communities for something of particular interest to others and for their profit — our natural resources, our cultural practices and spirituality, our very physical being. Our students represent momentum that seeks to unravel this pattern. The 3MT offered us a rare opportunity to see this movement at work.”

Learn more: The School of Social Transformation’s Pueblo graduate cohort program.

Communications specialist, School of Social Transformation


Ak-Chin community makes multi-year pledge to support ASU Law’s Indian Legal Program

March 27, 2018

The Ak-Chin Indian Community has made a philanthropic donation to benefit the Indian Legal Program (ILP) at the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law at Arizona State University.

A multi-year commitment running through 2026, the $750,000 endowment will support the ILP, sponsor a national Indian law conference each year, and provide funding for two new scholarships. Kate Rosier, as part of the Pipeline to Law Initiative, visits an elementary school class. Download Full Image

“The Ak-Chin Indian Community has a long history of supporting ASU Law and our Indian Legal Program,” said ASU Law Dean Douglas Sylvester. “We are thankful for that generous support and honored to continue partnering with the Ak-Chin community on the mission of expanding Native American students’ access to legal education.”

In addition to the scholarships and the annual conference, the Ak-Chin community will also be recognized in the naming of the large event center on the fifth floor of ASU Law’s home, the Beus Center for Law and Society in downtown Phoenix.

Ak-Chin Chairman Robert Miguel credits ASU Law with increasing interest in the legal profession in his community, citing a teen court program and similar activities aimed at the tribe’s youth.

“We recognize the fact that a lot of Native Americans throughout Indian Country are taking an interest in law programs, not just in the state of Arizona, but throughout the country,” Miguel said. “Access to a great legal education is something we want our community members and other Native Americans to take advantage of. We think that’s vital and key to the progression of generating lawyers, judges and other legal professionals in the long run.”

An issue of underrepresentation

According to the American Bar Association, only one percent of active attorneys in the United States in 2017 identified as Native American.

Patty Ferguson-Bohnee is the faculty director of the ILP and former president of the National Native American Bar Association. Along with ILP Director Kate Rosier, she has worked to identify the unique impediments facing Native Americans trying to enter the legal profession.

“We found out that there are challenges in getting Native Americans to think about law as a profession, there are challenges in going to law school, and there are pitfalls in even entering the profession,” Ferguson-Bohnee said. “We figured out that we really need to reach out to the youth and have contact with them at an early age.”

That realization helped lead to the formation of the Pipeline to Law Initiative. Sponsored by the ASU ILP and the Indigenous Law Program at Michigan State University College of Law, the initiative is a collaboration with other schools and Native American organizations.

In addition to helping prospective students with LSAT preparation and law school applications, the Pipeline to Law Initiative focuses on early outreach, visiting elementary, middle and high school students to share information about the legal profession using age-appropriate materials and culturally relevant information.

“This initiative was spearheaded by ASU Law, but we also developed partnerships with other law schools, because not every Native student is going to attend ASU Law, and the intent is not to push students to attend any particular law school,” Ferguson-Bohnee said. “The goal is to have them think about their opportunities and how they can make their dreams happen if they are interested in the legal profession.”

Miguel said the Ak-Chin community, whose population totals just over a thousand people, was inspired by the Pipeline Initiative.

“We support what ASU Law is trying to implement, and that played a large part in our decision to donate,” he said. “There’s growing interest in the law in Indian Country overall, and our community is small compared to other tribes, but when some of our youth see tribes from the surrounding communities take an interest in law careers, I think there’s a sense of ‘If they can do it, I can do it, too.’ Seeing their peers do it can motivate them in that direction.”

ASU Law’s ILP students frequently visit area schools as part of the Pipeline Initiative, and Ferguson-Bohnee says that can be a big inspiration to Native American youth.

“I think that’s impactful, especially if you never see a Native person as a lawyer,” she said. “You don’t really understand the positive context of being a lawyer and how important it is for the maintenance of communities and for the protection of sovereignty. It could mean that you have water in your community, or electricity, or the defense of important rights that you don’t really understand as a child.”

The impact of scholarships

Sarah Crawford

Sarah Crawford, second-year law student at ASU Law, benefited from local tribal scholarships.

After getting her undergraduate degree, Sarah Crawford developed an interest in law school while working in Washington, D.C. But Crawford, a member of the Sisseton-Wahpeton Sioux Tribe in South Dakota, faced a financial challenge.

“I come from a family that doesn’t have a lot of money. Throughout my undergraduate degree, I had always done everything on my own as far as getting my own funding,” she said. “I worked throughout all of undergrad, working 20 to 30-plus hours a week to support myself, but law school does not afford the time to work as much as I did in undergrad. Having financial support throughout law school was very important to me in my search.”

Crawford had several close friends and mentors who had graduated from the Indian Legal Program, so ASU Law was already near the top of her list. And as she researched Indian law programs throughout the country, ASU became her No. 1 choice.

“I discovered that ASU Law had complete support for the ILP program, and I really didn’t see that at other schools, where they put Indian law at the forefront,” she said. “ASU Law is also one of the few law schools in the nation to offer an Indian Law certificate.”

Crawford applied for — and received — the initial scholarship sponsored by another Phoenix-area tribe, the Fort McDowell Yavapai Nation.

“I was completely flabbergasted, amazed and touched by the support,” said Crawford, who is now a second-year student at ASU Law. “It showed that ASU Law believed in me and wanted to make sure that I was able to afford law school, and that really, truly meant a lot to me.”

Crawford says most Native American students face similar financial challenges.

“Looking across Indian Country, I’m not alone in the fact that it’s really hard for Native students to be able to make these big leaps into a world where financial stability is uncertain,” she said. “It is daunting for Native students to take these big financial risks on their own. Having support from tribal communities is really, really important to not only me, but to all Native students.”

Focused on the future

Though she’s far from South Dakota, Crawford has felt at home at ASU Law, in large part because of the support of the surrounding tribal communities.

“A lot of people used to warn me that if you go off the reservation and get an education, there will be lack of support,” she said. “Well, I actually found the complete opposite coming to ASU Law School. The tribes here have all been very, very supportive of Natives going into graduate and undergraduate school.”

After completing law school, Crawford hopes to effect change for Native Americans with a career focused on policy and legislation.

“I really enjoy looking at policy, finding the bigger issues, and trying to break down the barriers, because there are a lot of barriers that are policy-related in Indian Country,” she said. “These issues are both large and small, and it will take continual work to chip away these policy barriers so that tribal nations can best utilize all of their resources and continue to grow.”

Miguel believes the investment the Ak-Chin community has made will pay enormous dividends.

“We’re proud of the donation and the support we’re giving, and we’re looking forward to seeing the outcome in the next couple of years,” he said. “We feel this is going to help grow Native American interest in a much-needed profession, particularly here in Arizona. And we’re always happy to help in any way we can to enhance those types of educational opportunities.”

Executive Director, Marketing and Communications, Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law