Congratulations Sapsik'walá and summer graduates

August 16th, 2010

Reflecting on this past eventful weekend, I would like to offer my personal congratulations – first to three people, then to 16 and then to more than a thousand.

The three are Issac Akande, Elliot Bryant and Jacintha Stanley. Before coming to the University of Oregon a year ago, I served three years as executive vice chancellor and provost at the University of Kansas. It was in that role that I first met Issac, Elliot and Jacintha, while they were undergraduate students at Haskell Indian Nations University. Like KU, Haskell is located in Lawrence, Kan., and my wife Jan and I were privileged to become involved with the university and meet many of its students.

Issac, Elliott and Jacintha are now part of that second group of 16, whose members all received master’s degrees in education from the UO on Saturday after completing their studies through our university’s Sapsik'walá Project. In the Sahaptian language of Native American tribes from the Northwest, sapsik'walá is a word for “teacher,” and it describes what these 16 new UO graduates have prepared themselves to accomplish. The program, funded by the Office of Indian Education in the U.S. Department of Education, offers full scholarships to graduate students of Native American heritage. Their “payback” requirement is that they teach in schools serving Native American communities following their graduation.

Those 16 Sapsik'walá Project graduates – including Issac, Elliott and Jacintha – were in a graduating class of 1,005 who received their degrees on Saturday during the UO’s summer commencement exercises. Like their peers in the Native American teaching program, all of Saturday’s graduates have prepared themselves well to serve their communities, fulfill their promise and chase fantastic dreams. Their education at the UO, whether on the undergraduate or graduate level, will help them to accomplish great things and to make differences in the world. They will make us all proud.

In the Sahaptian language, all of our summer term graduates can consider themselves to be skulilá, or literate persons. To Issac, Elliot, Jacintha, your Sapsik'walá colleagues and your 1,002 graduating classmates: may each of you use your education for the betterment of society, and may you achieve – may you náwnak'i – your goals. Congratulations!

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