Courtesy AISES
This group photo was taken during the 2015 AISES Leadership Summit. This year's will be held April 14-16 in Minnesota.

Developing Relationships Through Mentoring: AISES Leadership Summit Coming Up

Jason Morgan Edwards

The American Indian Science and Engineering Society (AISES) will be convening their annual Leadership Summit April 14-16, 2016 in Rochester, Minnesota. AISES partners, IBM and the Mayo Clinic, will serve as hosts for the students. The Summit seeks to provide Native higher education students and AISES professionals with in-depth professional development workshops and networking opportunities.

The major focus of the Summit is to develop the skill and aptitude levels of AISES members in the areas of professional and career development. And, to better prepare them for employment in the Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) fields. It offers networking opportunities for early to mid-career level professionals and students, and fosters a mentor-mentee relationship between STEM professionals and students.

AISES is one of the largest student-run organizations in the country. It offers a strong support system to its members, both academically and socially. Nikki Tulley (Diné) has grown up with AISES. She has already earned her Bachelor's Degree in Environmental Science, and will be graduating with a Master's Degree in Water Resources from the University of New Mexico this summer. She attributes much of her success to her involvement with AISES.

Nikki Tulley (Diné) has grown up with AISES. She will graduate with a master's in Water Resources soon. She attributes much of her success to AISES. (Courtesy AISES)

She describes this particular event as “a unique opportunity to meet, learn, and work side-by-side at developing a greater understanding of who they are as an individual, and what that means for them as far as moving forward in their journey, whether that be academically or professionally. AISES provides this one of a kind place to do this because it includes keeping a very real and important understanding involved in acknowledging that we are Native students coming from different cultures, traditions, speaking different languages... however, allowing us to keep remembering that these unique differences is not a hindrance in moving forward in STEM.”

AISES is unique organization in other ways, as well. A lot of emphasis is placed on career and professional development. But, at its core, it is a familial entity. This aspect has special significance for Tulley. “I have gained many things through my participation in AISES. Often at various AISES functions you hear that AISES is like a family. I can support that statement and acknowledge that AISES is truly like a family. In my observation, a family is a basis for support, a center of learning and encouragement. AISES has offered me those things through various activities, conferences and summits.”

The point about AISES being like family is both figurative and literal for Tulley. Her older sister, Crystal Tulley-Cordova, is also an AISES member. They are both leaders, with Nikki holding the post of Region 3 Student Representative and Crystal being the AISES National Student Representative.

AISES member Crystal Tulley-Cordova is the National Student Representative. (Courtesy AISES)

“I would encourage other students to attend AISES activities, conferences, and leadership summits because they will find there is a greater community to help them in their endeavors in excelling academically and professionally. Not only will these students find support, networking, internships, jobs, etc; they will find role models, friendships, and a sense of family. Role models, friendships and sense of family I have found to be a great positive influence in my academic journey thus far,” Crystal said.

The Leadership Summit differs from the National Conference in that it is more acutely focused on developing/strengthening relationships between students and professionals through mentoring. The Summit also has a key strategic planning element that plays a vital role in ensuring the organization is keeping current with industry trends and the needs of its members. Multiple sessions will engage participants on such personal and professional development topics as: Maintaining Cultural Identity; Change Management: Managing Personal Change; and Bridging Native Tradition within STEM.

Registration is currently open. More detailed information can be found online.

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