Arizona State University
After graduation this month, Carley Tafoya will continue her education, working toward a master's degree in criminology.

Graduating Student Plans to Help Her People After Earning Law Degree

Arizona State University News

Carley Tafoya isn’t planning on earning a six-figure salary after earning her law degree.

Tafoya will work for change and justice for her people, the Jicarilla Apache Nation.

After graduating from Arizona State University in May with a double major in American Indian Studies and justice studies as well as a minor in political science, Tafoya will earn her master’s degree in criminology before going to law school to study federal Indian law.

Tafoya has excelled during her years at ASU, most recently by being named the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Dean’s Medalist in American Indian Studies as well as being nominated for the Dean’s Medal in justice studies. She is also this year’s recipient of the Jean Chaudhuri Memorial Scholarship.

Choosing justice studies as a dual major gave her a better understanding of the problems that affect her tribe such as domestic violence and child abuse, while political science provides knowledge of state and local government.

“I want to make the tribal system more efficient,” she said. “I’m a really big proponent of restorative justice that focuses on traditional values that American Indians can use to promote justice based on their traditions for people who commit crimes.” For instance, a domestic violence incident may be addressed by bringing the parties involved together to think of a traditional way to heal. Restorative justice is a way to bring healing and balance back to the community.

Choosing ASU as her top university was relatively easy for Tafoya who considered schools in New Mexico and California, but chose ASU after she heard about the strong American Indian Studies program here with faculty members who are all members of tribal nations.

“I think that it is important that you are taught by American Indian people. There is that true connection to that lived experience,” she said. “The faculty is very inviting and willing to help you. Through American Indian Student Support Services, I was able to get involved with other students.”


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