by Barbara Aston, Executive Director of Tribal Relations
Life is full of beginnings and endings. Since June, we have welcomed four new staff to Native American Programs. This newsletter features Tony Brave, our new Outreach Coordinator, and Joelle Edwards, our new Retention Specialist. I think that after the first of the New Year, we can drop the “new” before Tony and Joelle’s names. From their first days on the job, they both jumped in with great enthusiasm, creativity, knowledge, and a lot of heart to reach out and serve our potential and current students.
Our next newsletter will feature our “newest” staff, Zoe Higheagle Strong, who is currently serving as the Director of the Plateau Center for Native American Research and Collaboration and College of Education faculty, and Patty Iulo, who serves as Fiscal Specialist and Native Programs Assistant. Along with the old timers, Faith Price, Assistant Director of undergraduate student services, and Ken Lokensgard, Assistant Director for the Plateau Center and graduate student services, we have a great team!
What this means for me personally, is that it is an excellent time for me to bid farewell to my role as Executive Director of Tribal Relations at WSU, and leave this work in their competent, caring hands, under the leadership of Dr. Zoe Higheagle Strong, my successor as Executive Director. I am retiring after nearly 32 years of service at WSU, first in the Native American Student Center, and then in my role as Tribal Liaison. My heart is full of gratitude for the honor and privilege that it has been to serve Native American students and tribes of the Northwest, and to work with the many fine, committed administrators, faculty, and staff of WSU.
With the support of the Provost and Executive Vice President, Dan Bernardo, Dr. Strong began her new position in August, allowing us to work together until my retirement January 9, 2019, thus assuring no gaps in service and an informed transition. During the course of my years as Tribal Liaison/Executive Director, I have worked for five presidents and nine provosts. Each of these leaders have provided support and resources for our programs to continue to grow and thrive.
In September, our President Kirk Schulz, and the Chancellor of WSU Spokane Health Sciences, Daryll DeWald, attended the Affiliated Tribes of Northwest Indians fall conference. President Schulz presented to the general assembly and both leaders were able to have lunch with the ATNI Board of Directors and past WSU Native American Advisory Board members. I am excited for what the future holds as our university leadership continues to engage with tribal leaders and communities.
President Schulz demonstrated his support through the signing of the Indigenous People’s Day Proclamation and through his acknowledgment of Native American Heritage Month and the contributions of Native people.
Upon retiring, I look forward to continuing my commitment to lifelong learning and service to others. I hope to spend some extended time in Oklahoma working more closely with my tribe and with our longhouse. My family has been unconditionally supportive, as I have pursued my passion for education and greater justice for Native Americans. I will now be able to spend more time with family members. I just received news that my husband and I are to be great-grandparents in the New Year! Life is FULL of endings and beginnings.
Thank you and many blessings to all of you who are supporters and friends of the WSU Native American Programs. May you have a joyful holiday season and a New Year full of great challenges and wonderful friendships! You will always be close to my heart and in my prayers!