AILP Alumna Linda Sue Warner Supports American Indian Education at All Levels
by Melissa Gummo (December 2009)
The American Indian Leadership Program (AILP) is celebrating its 40th anniversary. AILP is the nation's oldest continuously operating educational leadership program for American Indians and Alaska Natives. Since the program was founded in 1970, more than 220 American Indian and Alaska Native students have earned master's and doctoral degrees from the program and have gone on to pursue leadership positions at the local, tribal, state, and national levels. To celebrate this milestone, the College of Education is profiling alumni and students of the program.
Penn State and AILP alumna Linda Sue Warner ’78 M.Ed., ’89 Ph.D. has had an accomplished and diverse career that has supported and promoted American Indian education on all levels.
She is currently the president of Haskell Indian Nations University in Lawrence, Kan. Haskell Indian Nations University has an enrollment of approximately 1,000 students each semester from over 135 federally recognized tribes. When Warner arrived at Haskell she began to align the University to the core values found in the strategic planning process. The values are Accountability, Respect, Cooperation and Honesty (ARCH). This alignment included changing syllabi, performance measures, student code, and budget plans. Her second major initiative was Healthier Haskell. She challenged a team of employees and students to walk the circumference of the earth the first year (27,401 miles). By the end of the year, Healthier Haskell had logged over 150,000 miles.
Warner began her career as a second-grade teacher before teaching English at the high school level. In Sitka, Alaska, she volunteered with the Mt. Edgecumbe Comprehensive Alcohol Program for substance abuse counseling and recreation programs, which was her first position in the Bureau of Indian Affairs’ school system. Later in her career, Warner went on to serve as a building principal at Wingate High School in New Mexico, director of admissions at Haskell Indian Junior College, principal at Theodore Roosevelt School in Arizona, and assistant professor at The University of Kansas.
From 1993 to 1995, Warner served as the director of the American Indian Leadership Program at Penn State. As a principal investigator on training grants for American Indian students, Warner worked to recruit and retain qualified Indian professionals. From that work, she was awarded a MacArthur grant to plan the World Indigenous Peoples Conference, which was held in Albuquerque, N.M. in 1996. Over 3,000 conference attendees participated representing ten international indigenous communities.
“My most enduring memory of the American Indian Leadership Program was the very supportive academic environment and high standards,” said Warner. “The AILP had expectations and a mission that you would use your degree and return Indian administrators to Indian country.”
In 1996 she was asked by Dr. Gerald Gipp, a fellow AILP alumnus, to work with the National Science Foundation. She was appointed program officer for Education and Human Resources and managed a portfolio of $30 million that included systemic reform initiatives in locations throughout the United States. While at the NSF, she monitored program compliance and served on an interagency task force for projects in Indian country.
When she left the NSF, Warner held positions at the Indian School of Milwaukee and the Truman School of Public Policy. She also served as the associate vice chancellor for academic affairs with the Tennessee University System before taking her current position.
Warner has authored and co-authored many publications regarding Indian and cultural leadership and has spoken on multiple occasions about these issues. She has received numerous awards and honors for her accomplishments, including the Penn State College of Education Alumni Society Leadership and Service Award in 2006. She has been recognized by many other educational organizations and institutions for her service and dedication to Indian administration.
She is currently working on a study with Gipp on the influence of people, organizations, research, and news media on Indian education. She is writing the article with Holly Mackey, a Penn State doctoral student.
Despite all of her accomplishments, Warner thinks of herself as an educator. She said, “if you sat next to me on a plane and we started chatting, I would tell you I’m a teacher and a grandmother.”
She lives in Oklahoma and enjoys spending time with her two sons and three grandchildren.