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AILP Lecture & Graduation Celebration

When: May 14, 2011 from 02:00 PM to 04:00 PM

Where: Paterno Library, Mann Assemby Room, University Park Campus

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To culminate its 40th anniversary celebration, Penn State’s American Indian Leadership Program (AILP) is planning a special event to honor this year’s cohort of graduating students.

The event will be held in the Mann Assembly Room of the University Library at 2:00 p.m. on May 14—the day before the students receive their degrees at The Graduate School’s commencement ceremonies. The celebration is open to the public.

“This is the first time in many years that we have held a graduation celebration like this,” said Associate Professor Susan C. Faircloth, AILP director and a member of the Coharie Tribe. “This is a unique opportunity to recognize the accomplishments of our graduates and the support their families, friends, and communities have provided in order for them to achieve this important milestone.“

Seven American Indian/Alaska Native scholars are in this year’s graduating cohort:

  • Kari Deswood—a member of the Navajo (Diné) Nation.
  • Peter Deswood— a member of the Navajo (Diné) Nation.
  • RoseMary Big—a member of the Sincangu Lakota Oyate of South Dakota.
  • Connie Filesteel—a member of the White Clay and Assiniboine tribes of Montana.
  • Bernard Chimoni—a member of the A:Shiwi (Zuni) tribe of New Mexico.
  • Kathleen Sando—a member of the Jemez (He mish) Pueblo of New Mexico.
  • Paulina Whitehat—a member of the Navajo (Diné) Nation of northern Arizona.


Each student is set to earn a master’s degree in educational leadership with principal certification. Their fellowships are funded by a grant titled “Principals for Student Success,” sponsored by the Office of Indian Education, U.S. Department of Education. Graduates are required to provide a service-related payback, which entails working in an administrative/leadership capacity in a school serving American Indian/Alaska Native students.

The featured speaker at the celebration will be Mary Jane Oatman-Wak Wak, president of the National Indian Education Association and an enrolled member of the Nez Perce Tribe. Last June, President Obama appointed Oatman-Wak Wak to serve on the National Advisory Council on Indian Education. She was appointed in 2007 as Idaho’s first Indian education coordinator.

Oatman-Wak Wak has served as an education specialist for the University of Idaho’s Northwest Nations Education Opportunities Center and as a teacher for the Idaho Department of Corrections. She has provided education services to nine reservation communities in three states. She has been involved in language preservation efforts and native language instruction in preK-20 settings, college transition skills, and teaching elders the basics of computer skills.

Oatman-Wak Wak is near completion of a master’s degree in anthropology at the University of Idaho, where she has been accepted into a doctoral program in the College of Education. She is a graduate of Lewis-Clark State College (LCSC) with a bachelor’s degree in justice studies and a minor in Nez Perce language. In 2009 she received LCSC’s Alumni of the Year award and established the first-ever chapter of the Native American Alumni Association. She received a national award in 2008 from the University Continuing Education Association as the Outstanding Nontraditional Student.

“We would like to thank the Equal Opportunity Planning Committee, the College of Education, and the University Libraries Diversity Committee for their support of this event,” said Faircloth.

For more information regarding the AILP or the graduation event, contact Faircloth by e-mail (scf2@psu.edu) or by phone (814-863-3775).

The AILP is the nation’s oldest continuously operating educational leadership program for American Indians and Alaska Natives (AIAN). It was established in 1970 with a goal of increasing the number and quality of educational leaders working in schools and other educational organizations serving AIAN students.