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Which groups or activities were you most involved in at ASU? What did you gain from that involvement?
I learned of the Native American Student Association (NASA) in my first year at ASU in 1982 and was very excited to see other people like me on campus! I reconnected with friends I had not seen in years from back home on the Navajo reservation; NASA became my family away from home. Through NASA, I captured the title of Miss Indian ASU and became actively involved in campus and community activities.
Starting out originally as an engineering student, I also became actively involved with the ASU Chapter of the American Indian Science and Engineering Society (AISES), later serving as the vice president. My involvement with NASA and AISES proved to be life changing for me. AISES along with my family and friends sponsored my trip to Washington, D.C. to participate in the National Miss Indian USA Scholarship Program. To my surprise, I won the title.
As Miss Indian USA, I was provided the privilege to serve as an ambassador and national role model for the American Indian/Alaska Native people and to share my language and culture at various events across Indian America. I lived out of my suitcase for a year, but the experience was priceless. Being actively involved in clubs and organizations provided opportunities to meet incredibly smart people and survive college life together. It also opened doors to once-in-a-lifetime opportunities!
How did your education at ASU prepare you for your current job or business?
I started out as an engineering student, but discovered my love for math and science combined with a passion to help people could be applied to nursing. Not only did I gain valuable hands-on clinical skills, but I also learned how to think critically and communicate effectively. People skills and work-life balance were additional skills that would become essential for my success as a nurse leader. After graduating, I joined the U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps, serving as a nurse officer for the Indian Health Service (IHS). I held various nursing positions in rural and urban native communities that have been very rewarding.
I now lead a team of educators in my current job as the director of the IHS Office of Continuing Education. I am able to share my experience serving as a mentor to students in the American Indian Students United for Nursing program at ASU.
What personal qualities do you think were most strongly developed in you during your years as a Sun Devil?
When you’re far from home, you have to adapt and become self-sufficient. Through this process, you mature quickly and learn that to be successful you have to do it yourself. My Navajo way of life kept me strong and healthy. My parents and grandparents mean the world to me and their words of wisdom were my inspiration. When things got tough, even today, I remember my father’s message of persistence, conviction, and devotion.
Tell us about your involvement in the Alumni Association’s Native American Alumni Chapter.
Staying connected is a profound way to make a difference. Since 1987, I have been an active member of the Native American alumni chapter, serving in many roles, including two terms as chapter president. I enjoy participating in our chapter’s activities that bring fellow native alums back to ASU, to serve as mentors, and to support future alums in their quest for higher education.
Why have you chosen to be a member of the Alumni Association? What value does involvement with ASU add to your membership?
I am a Sun Devil at heart. I have a lifetime membership with the Alumni Association and have been a season ticket holder for many years. Many of my family members are ASU grads, including my youngest sister, who earned her Ph.D. in education. I am confident that ASU will rigorously prepare my daughter, a freshman, in her pursuit of becoming a physician. I have so many fond memories of ASU, which may be why I stay connected! I also believe it is very important to be involved in your community and give something back. I am committed to my alma mater and will continue to support and give back to the native population on campus.
What are three “can’t-miss” ASU experiences every Sun Devil should participate in?
What advice would you give to today’s ASU students?
Maintain a positive attitude, be confident, and believe in yourself. Take advantage of every opportunity in front of you to make your dreams come true.