American Indian College Fund Tribal College Honoree of the Year Named
Dr. Sherry Allison, Navajo, president of Southwestern Indian Polytechnic Institute (SIPI) in Albuquerque, New Mexico, was named the 2014 American Indian College Fund Tribal College Honoree of the Year by the American Indian College Fund.
The prestigious award, funded by the Adolph Coors Foundation, was created to recognize a distinguished individual who has made a positive and lasting impact on the tribal college movement. Dr. Allison will receive a $1,000 honorarium and attend a special ceremony celebrating her contributions on March 16 in Billings, Montana at the American Indian Higher Education Consortium Spring Student Conference in front of her peers, colleagues, Native scholars, representatives from the Adolph Coors Foundation, and College Fund staff.
Dr. Allison’s commitment and enthusiasm for Native education is a contagious part of her personal mission. When told this, she said, “I had a meeting today with members of SIPI’s leadership team and I told them, ‘If we keep making improvements, in five years, you watch, people will be fighting to come to college here and people will be fighting to work at SIPI.’ ”
For the past five years Dr. Allison has served as president of SIPI. She served as Interim President from January to December 6, 2010, at which time she was appointed to the position of president by Mr. Larry Echo Hawk, Assistant Secretary-Indian Affairs. SIPI is one of two federally operated colleges operated by the U.S. Department of Interior—Bureau of Indian Education.
There, Dr. Allison has lead the college; addressed its accreditation issues; and renewed excitement for its mission with faculty, staff, students, and board of regents, ensuring that everyone understand the team’s goals. She describes her leadership style as being a servant leader. Valuing the contribution of people is important to Dr. Allison. “I listen to our staff and students and try my best to acknowledge their concerns and recommendations and make certain that we all understand that we are part of a world that we must make better for our students. Student success is why we must succeed at what we do… not one person is more important than the other. It is up to the organizational leader—and, that would be me—to walk the philosophy,” she said.
Dr. Allison said she identifies strongly with the challenges that tribal college students face because “my commitment and passion for education stems from my own personal experience. I was raised on the Navajo reservation, on a farm near Shiprock, New Mexico; my family was fairly poor. There were eight children and we lived in a two-room house with no modern conveniences such as running water, heating system, and more. My father had a fifth-grade education and my mother finished the third grade. My mom was a cook and my father was a heavy equipment operator. Realizing the challenges they faced with limited education, they both impressed on all of their children the need for a higher education. They knew that education was a way out of poverty. The majority of my brothers and sisters earned a higher education, and it changed our lives by opening doors and improving our lives. Education is so powerful. It is such a change agent. This is where my passion comes from. When I see our students I see myself; they are me.”
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