Student Leaders: Eryka Charley

Eryka Charley, a Ph.D. Candidate in Educational Leadership and the American Indian Leadership Program, says her leadership style helps streamline communication that leads to understanding.
Student Leaders: Eryka Charley

Eryka Charley

Eryka Charley says she doesn’t actively look for positions of leadership. However, her history tells you those positions find her nonetheless.

“I’ve never actually sought out leadership positions; I’ve always been nominated,” she said.

“I see myself as more of a medium, trying to streamline communication. I don’t always necessarily believe people are naturally attuned to everything that’s going on. I try to make sure there are avenues and platforms so people can eventually come to an understanding.”

Charley, a doctoral candidate in the Educational Leadership program, has served as vice president of the Educational Policy Studies Student Association and as a student representative for the American Indian Leadership Program (AILP).

“The population of American Indians with a postsecondary education is rare, and the Penn State AILP is a hallmark of  leadership in Indian education, especially since so many Penn State graduates have been successful in making strides in Indian education. In particular, they are some of the few highly educated American Indian educators who have been able to return to the reservation and improve conditions,” she said.

“Simply being affiliated with the AILP puts me in a very peculiar position in Indian country because so many Indians recognize the value and appreciate the skills that have been obtained.”

Charley’s dissertation, titled “Overcoming Social Exclusion: Stories from High-Achieving American Indian Students,” seeks to better understand the methods and behaviors that American Indian students enact to persist academically. In particular, it places those behaviors within the tradition of tribal nation-building and acts to promote tribal sovereignty.

Those ideals are similar to what Charley thinks a good leader should be.

“I think that a good leader views the position as a position of service,” she said. “I think a leader needs to have vision, and be able to communicate with the community or organization from which they were elected.”

--by Andy Elder (December 2013)