[00:00:00] Josie: If you’re thinking about podcasting and maybe don’t know where to start, or maybe you have built all the plans, but you’re looking at it and wondering how the heck you’d have time, or you’ve got the idea, you’ve got the plan, but you’re having challenges getting in front of the right people. Well, you all, you got to check out University FM.
They are the higher education podcast agency, dedicated to making shows that are worthy of people’s attention. Podcasts to share research, highlight diverse experience, or bringing attention to new initiatives. Strategy, production, and growth. They do it all while keeping the process very simple, yet streamlined. I can tell you from my little world in Josie and the Podcast, the experience has been amazing. University FM’s mission is to elevate the voices of your institution. Visit them at university.fm to learn more and find a time to chat. Links are in the show notes.
Hello, and welcome to Josie and the Podcast. What does it mean to lead in the digital space with heart and humanity? On my podcast, Josie and the Podcast, I spend time answering this question with heart, soul, and lots of substance. My goal is to share conversations that encourage you, empower you, and entertain you a bit to rethink digital strategy for yourself and the organizations you support.
All right. Let’s get to know today’s featured guest. Dr. Tiffany Smith is a citizen of the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma and is also a descendant of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation.
In her role as Director of Research and Career Support for AISES, American Indian Science and Engineering Society, she manages grant-supported research projects and conducts research related to indigenous students and professionals in STEM disciplines. Prior to AISES, Tiffany worked for 16 years in student affairs, including first-year experience, career development, and DEI efforts.
She serves as the National Chair for NASPA’s Indigenous People’s Knowledge Community. She helps, her work will help dismantle the deficit narrative, and hold institutions accountable for providing culturally relevant support and space for indigenous students. Tiffany resides in Oklahoma with her husband, Zach and two children, Tytan and Mya.
You could follow us both on all the socials. Find us in the show notes. The pod account, remember, is on Twitter and Instagram. You could find me @josieahlquist, and Tiffany is @drtdawg0513. Everything we talk about, from resources, people in post, is found on my website, josieahlquist.com/podcast. Enjoy.
Tiffany, thank you so, much for joining me today on the podcast, even though we do get to see each other in a few days.
[00:03:29] Tiffany: It’s such a pleasure. Yes, and I’m looking forward to seeing you here in a couple days at NASPA.
[00:03:35] Josie: Yeah. We got to work together on the NASPA Annual Conference for 2022 Planning Committee. And yeah, so, gosh, like a year now has gone by. So, welcome to the show. I know you also, have some presence on a podcast with NASPA, and you are moving and shaking and doing all the good things. So, I’ve got lots of questions and things we can talk about. But I always kick-off and, like, a reaction of getting to know you through your social media bios.
So, let’s start with Twitter. Give us a couple insights. So, indigenous higher-ed prof, PhD, Cherokee, Muskogee, did I pronounce that?
[00:04:21] Tiffany: Muscogee.
[00:04:22] Josie: Muscogee? Okay. Feminist doc and critical scholar advocate for women, students of color and STEM. Mother, she, her, hers. So, let us know a little couple things in there.
[00:04:32] Tiffany: Yeah, there’s a lot in there. And in fact, I often use those same titles when I give formal presentations because I feel like those better define who I am than my actual professional title. So, I like to start with those because I think it relates well with folks. But I did want to quickly say, [foreign language 00:04:48]. I’m Dr. Tiffany Smith.. So, hello, I’m Dr. Tiffany Smith. I’m a she, her, hers, and I’m Cherokee in Muscogee of Oklahoma. And it’s my pleasure to be here with Josie, a good colleague and friend of mine, on your podcast. But yes, I will continue to say that I feel like all those things that, I wouldn’t really say one’s more important than the other.
Although I would say the toughest job I carry is being a mother to two amazing kids, an almost eight-year-old and a three-year-old, Titan and Maya. So, my family is of utmost importance to me and influences all the work that I do. And so, I feel like, you know, my day-to-day, I’m always thinking about my community, my family, my nation, and the impact that has. And so, that’s when I feel like I’ve really leaned into my purpose in life, which is to serve our tribal communities across the nation and even into Canada, too, because where I work at AISES, currently the American Indian Science and Engineering Society. That has been a huge partnership.
We just hosted an AISES Canada gathering in March. And so, we’ve really built out those relationships with our First Nations relatives up there in Canada. So, I absolutely love the work that I do. As a researcher, too, that’s really grounded in indigenous methodologies and my own epistemologies, tribal epistemologies. So, I feel like I ground everything in all that I do. So, yeah, I mean that’s a little bit about me and I feel like that’s important to emulate those same authenticities within my digital presence as well.
[00:06:25] Josie: Yeah. Well, and you tell such a story and so vivid from your family to travels to a few other things that we’re going to get into today. And we all are going to put on our researcher hats, too, so we can dig into your research.
[00:06:40] Tiffany: Yes.
[00:06:40] Josie: But let’s throw it back a little bit. I always ask, what was your earliest memory of any kind of technology?
[00:06:49] Tiffany: Oh my. I would probably say junior high. Of course, now, they’re all middle schools, but when I was in school it was like seventh through ninth. And so, I would say probably seventh-grade year was when we had the old school computers that we first started working on in school. And that’s when, like, AOL and all that was really popular. And I would say when it comes to any kind of social media, that didn’t start for me, and I guess I’m aging myself, but that didn’t start for me until, oh goodness, college? College age was really when Facebook hit the scene, and MySpace was really popular then.
[00:07:31] Josie: Oh, MySpace.
[00:07:34] Tiffany: Really taking it back, which was a lot of fun because you could really personalize those pages, you know, visually a lot more than you can with, say, Facebook and all of that. But it’s interesting to see how far everything’s come because I remember my first, before I had a cellphone even, I had a pager, like, my senior year of high school.
[00:07:52] Josie: Oh my gosh.
[00:07:54] Tiffany: And if for folks that don’t know, that’s, like, someone pages you and you got to get to a phone and call them because they’re just sending their number. And that’s when we could call collect from pay phones and all of those things. So, yeah, it’s interesting to see how far it’s come. And what my kids now, right, like, this next generation are growing up with all of this, surrounding them. And the challenges as a parent too in handling that.
[00:08:23] Josie: Yeah. I feel like that could be its own podcast. It’s like talking to parents, especially of preteens and teens. What are you seeing? And then we could do a aftershow where it’s of their kids, and, like, we’re all listening and trying to understand.
[00:08:38] Tiffany: Seriously.
[00:08:40] Josie: So, I mean, you probably know more than I do about what’s coming. So, give us some warning signs if you’ve got them. But, oh my gosh.
[00:08:51] Tiffany: I’ll tell you. My kid, my oldest, my seven-year-old, almost eight-year-old, he is already wanting to be a YouTuber. And I’m like, “Slow your roll.” Like, “Hold on, mama sees all sorts of issues with this. Let’s scale it back a little bit. I’m not sure I want you to be that public at this point.” So, yes, it’s just, it’s a totally different world because now my kids are watching other kids doing things.
[00:09:15] Josie: Right. Unboxing.
[00:09:16] Tiffany: Very different, yeah.
[00:09:19] Josie: My sister-in-law caught my niece pretending she was vlogging.
[00:09:23] Tiffany: See?
[00:09:23] Josie: She’s, like, six. But I was like, “Wow. Okay.” Oh my gosh. Yeah.
[00:09:30] Tiffany: I’m telling you.
[00:09:32] Josie: Too funny.
[00:09:33] Tiffany: It’s wild what they’re being confronted with, right? So…
[00:09:37] Josie: Yes. Beyond family, getting into your scholar, your advocacy. As I was kind of reading through your bios and just thinking about you, like, this phrase of heart work kind of came to mind. I find you’re so grounded and clear in what your purpose is. And so, it’s very timely, too. We’re talking about NASPA. You’re the co-chair of the IPKC Knowledge Community, Indigenous People’s Knowledge Community. And I always love to, like, go scrolling in what you’ve been posting, in what the KC’s been doing. And they featured you, in one of the posts, I don’t know if it was on Twitter or Instagram.
[00:10:15] Tiffany: Yeah.
[00:10:15] Josie: And I just want to share this is a quote that you shared, and we can kind of chat through it. Because again, I think it’s just so telling in a nice way to kind of kick us off. You say, “In everything I do, I’m always thinking of the immense responsibility I have as a good relative to my people. It is such a humbling honor to work in the indigenous higher education, supporting the success in our terms of indigenous students, creating more access and pathways for them than I had just those before me did for me. I look to my ancestors for strength and wisdom to get through the challenges and see nothing but light ahead for our people. This is lifelong heart work.” Oh, that’s where I got that word. Yeah.
[00:10:54] Tiffany: Yes.
[00:10:55] Josie: “And I am continuously learning and inspiring along the way and just radiating joy.” Not only seeing you on the screen, but in posts like this. So, let us know a little bit about your role within the IPKC. But also, just what brings you into this work, no matter if it’s with, you know, where you work with NASPA, and because I know you do a lot of speaking and consulting too.
[00:11:18] Tiffany: Yeah, absolutely. Where do I begin? Oh, my goodness. I’ve been involved with IPKC since I was a mere little master’s student in higher education leadership program at the University of Oklahoma at the time. I actually was just finishing up my second year and I had a new faculty mentor, who I will shout out, Dr. Penny Pasque. She’s at the Ohio State University right now. She’s an amazing scholar. And I actually just saw her at ACPA this week, which was an exciting reunion, but she was one of those faculty that really just has made a huge impact on my career, honestly. So, I’m a first-gen student, first of all, so, I think that’s important to mention like throughout each of my degrees.
So, really, when I was finishing up even my bachelor’s, that was a huge accomplishment for our entire family. And didn’t expect to go on to grad school, but sort of stumbled upon it. I think I was very involved in undergrad, and I had some key mentors there who I realized, “I can do this for a living, like, working student affairs, you know.” And so, at the time I was working, my background was, like, in public relations. So, I started working in our, our Office of Public Affairs at OU after I had worked in, like, sports PR for a little bit. And then came back to Oklahoma and had a tuition waiver. And I was like, “Now’s the best time to, like, go back to school.”
So, in my second year I finally had a faculty mentor, Dr. Penny Pasque, who said, “Are you involved in any of these like, higher-ed associations?” And I was like, “What are these?” No, I’ve never heard of NASPA. I’ve never heard of ACPA, all these ones she was presenting. And she said, “Well, you should, you should attend. You should try to attend, like, NASPA or ACPA.” And so, she was able to help me find some assistance and I got to attend my first NASPA then. And it was at Boston. Ironically, where we’re going to be this next year.
And I went, not knowing a single soul, by myself to Boston and ended up connecting instantly with IPKC through a network of friends I ended up making there. And really got involved in the LKC as well, too, the Latinx KC. And that became, like, my home within this large association. That can be very overwhelming since I didn’t attend, like, a regional first. And IPKC was one of those that really made me want to keep coming back. And it was very small, that might, it had only been three years old at the time because it was founded in 2005 by, like, eight co-founders that are amazing scholars in the field.
And it’s interesting that coming full-circle, like, I ended up serving in different capacities. I got brought in, I think, first as a regional rep, Region 4 West rep with IPKC early on. And then it just went from there. I got more involved in the region, you know, CLC with you. And I was brought back by Dr. Charlotte Davidson, who’s a former IPKC co-chair and now the indigenous relations advisor for NASPA. Back in 2019, I’d kind of taken a hiatus as a PhD student, going to more, like, research-oriented conferences. And she said, “Hey, you know, I’d really like you to come back and be a part of the IPKC leadership team.” And I said, “You know, if I’m choosing to come back to NASPA, that is where my heart definitely is, is with the IPKC, because that’s where I found my community and my family within NASPA.” And I did.
Later that year, while I was working, I finished my PhD that December in 2019. And told Char, at the time I said, “I think I really want to be chair. Like, I feel like everything’s led up to this point. Like, I’m really passionate about it. And I was doing a lot of great work within our region.” She’s like, “Go for it. You know, you should.” And so, I did. And here we are like, you know, three years because you have like a chair-elect cheerer. And then I’m finishing up my two years.
And at the end of this conference in Boston, I’ll be rolling off as chair, as IPKC chair. It’s just been my everything. I mean, I would say through all of my health challenges I’ve had over the years, and any kind of struggles, these folks on the leadership team have truly been my family. So, I look forward to our monthly, and sometimes more frequent, calls that we have because we truly just connect with the heartbeat of what’s going on with each other, and struggles we have, and things to celebrate. And I just can’t wait to see many of them because I think once, you know, COVID hit and it was just all virtual, it really did a lot of damage to all of us and our souls and just not being able to feel those synergies of being in the same room and hugging one another.
You know, underestimating the power of all those things. And I just can’t wait to see. There’s some folks that I still literally have never met in person, that we’ve just connected virtually over these years due to the circumstances. And you know, travel budget’s getting cut. So, I think with all of that, it’s going to be exciting to really get to hug some folks at this year’s conference as I’m rolling off. But IPKC to me is truly the heart and soul of my NASPA experience. And because I get a chance to give back to the greater indigenous higher-ed community, and really speaking truth to power about some of our challenges. And privileging our ways of knowing and being within these academic spaces that weren’t created for us, or by us, you know? And so, I think we have the opportunity.
And honestly, since I’ve been on the leadership team, again, this is truly when NASPA has taken it to new heights. In indigenous engagement, you know, bringing that to these different committees. And I would be remiss to say that hasn’t been due to several individuals before me. Like, this isn’t my doing. This is a collective doing. But, you know, Dr. Charlotte Davidson, Pamela Goyo, who’s a pillar with you this year. Congratulations. That have really helped forge those relationships and, you know, bring those pathways for those of us coming up in this profession.
So, I just feel very honored and privileged, and that it is an immense responsibility, like I mentioned in that quote. Because we’re always thinking. I think, what I’ve been taught to by relatives and then even mentors of my, like, Dr. Wilma Mankiller, one of the former principal chiefs of the Cherokee Nation. She said a quote, that was something like, “When we’re making decisions, we’re always thinking seven generations in the past and into the future.” So, we’re always taking that in consideration on when we do this work as leaders, indigenous leaders. And so, that’s something I don’t take lightly. And I wanted to make sure that, I think IPKC is in the best of hands as I’m passing this on.
[00:17:51] Josie: Well, thank you for your work with that knowledge community and the work you’ve done within that organization, but also, the advocacy that the KC, and just your work, has done. You know, within student affairs, within higher ed, within a global conversation. As we think about either what the KC has focused on, or what you feel like overall in higher ed, as we think about serving indigenous students or even staff, administrators, faculty, what are kind of the core areas you’re focused on and, or who’s actually doing this work really well that we can point to as examples.
[00:18:31] Tiffany: Absolutely. So, I will just say one thing I wanted to highlight that under my leadership, our team has brought forward is a podcast ourselves. So, we’ve been podcasting on sacred ground and that started last January. And that is to highlight indigenous scholars in the field, and some of our founders, too, that are still doing amazing work within indigenous higher education.
And so, yes, I have several people I could highlight for sure. But I would say, some of the major, perhaps, challenges are highlights, would be that, you know, it’s creating space for us. So, I think within the recent, maybe 10 years or so. When I was a grad student, many of us had never heard of indigenous methodologies as an option for doing research, and there really wasn’t a course offered on this.
I know at my institution. Oh, goodness. Back in like 2017, we had a professor there, Dr. Heather Shotton, who’s an amazing scholar in the field and one of the co-editors of the first Beyond the Asterisks book. She served. I, essentially, think as, like, co-chair of my committee, even though she was an outside member at the time working in Native Studies, but a product of our ed leadership department. And she was really huge in offering these types of courses. And I remember in my last year of coursework, she offered a blended course for undergrads through grad students on indigenous methodologies.
So, it was interesting having like a few undergrads in there, you know. Master’s students and a few of us PhD students in there learning about these, you know, critical works for the first time and how to truly privilege our own lenses, right off looking at higher ed. And I think, “Finally,” because I was grappling with what methodology am I going to use that really aligns with my worldview as the Cherokee Muskogee woman? And none of these seem to align. Well, I think I was leaning more toward, like, narrative inquiry because I think, you know, our stories, like, oral storytelling has been a way that we passed down knowledge for generations. Not necessarily through writing, right?
And so, you know, what are ways that we could do that? And that’s when I learned about Dr. Brayboy’s like tribal Critical Race Theory, which talks about colonization being endemic to society. So, it kind of goes off of, if we we’re familiar with CRT, like Critical Race Theory. It talks about racism as endemic to society. Well, this takes in another level of really focusing on indigenous peoples and our histories with what is now known as United States of America. And so, I really appreciated his critical view there, and he had like 10 tenants with that. And then I was able to stumble upon like Dr. Jo-ann Archibald’s work on Indigenous Storywork.
And so, both of these talk about intersecting the way that they talk about stories as being making up theory, and that they are legitimate ways of doing research with our communities. And it just all seemed to come together and really align with my own lens and for many of us that were at the program at the time. And so, I wanted to learn more. And it was a little scary because there just wasn’t a whole lot of, you know, guiding you, too. Because you’re also having to bring in your own tribal knowledge and what that looks like.
And so, I was able to make it through, thanks to these great mentors like Dr. Heather Shotton. And my own chair, Dr. Derek Houston, and so, you know, who was a non-indigenous scholar but a scholar of color that was very supportive in helping me through get through. And there were definitely several times where I didn’t think I was going to get through it to me. Like seven and a half years, two kids later throughout the program, too. I was pregnant with my youngest when I defended my dissertation. Very pregnant, at the time. So, I feel like she was with me. And I definitely put her in my acknowledgements and things too. Because I think, you know, I’m always thinking, too, of, like, the work that I’m doing, how’s this going to affect my children in the future, and the access and opportunities they have. And so, that was a big part of guiding my work.
So, I think with all those things, you know, I was fortunate to work with some of these scholars and I think that, we got to think about not only privileging our own ways of knowing in the academy, but also being understanding of indigenous students’ experiences because they’re very non-linear. And oftentimes, we’re being pulled. We’re feeling what’s called that survivor’s guilt. I think it’s, like, the closest concept to that of our families pulling us back home. Like, you know, questioning what is the academy going to give us that we can’t get in our own communities?
And I remember getting a lot of that too. Like, “Well, you should be home taking care of your kids. Why are you going to school?” And I was getting a lot of that throughout the program, which led me to a two-year hiatus there. And I didn’t think I was going to come back. But it took that faculty mentor again, Dr. Penny Pasque, Dr. Heather Shotton. They were like, “You need to come back.” And I was, at the time, the only indigenous student in the program before I’d taken the hiatus. So, that was very isolating. And then I came back and there were three other doc students that were indigenous. And so, Dr. Shotton really helped organize us and get us all together to present together.
I feel like I didn’t have any of that scholar identity at the time or understanding of different pathways for me to go and publishing, and presenting, and all of that. And so, those last few years were really pinnacle for me. And developing that understanding of myself as a schola and what I could bring to the academy. But yeah, Dr. Stephanie Waterman does a lot of work on homegoing experiences, and she’s one of our co-founders of the IPKC, as a matter of fact.
So, it’s interesting to see, like, out of our eight co-founders, this was all, like, before many of them were even doctors at the time that I remember coming to the IPKC. And to see how everybody now is, has become doctors and is doing amazing work in the academy. Like Dr. Robin Minthorn, Dr. Chris Nelson, and Dr. Karen Francis-Begay. I mentioned Pamela Goyo, Dr. Stephanie Waterman, Dr. Charlotte Davidson. I know I’m missing people, but just amazing work being done. And there is a new, second book coming out of Beyond the Asterisks. They’re going to be featuring at NASPA this year as a featured session. They’ll be talking, and I think there’s like eight of those scholars that’ll be speaking about some of the different chapters that they’ll be talking through.
[00:25:03] Josie: Well, and we’ll list all those people and books and goodies, and send me more. That’s what I also love.
[00:25:09] Tiffany: [inaudible 00:25:10].
[00:25:09] Josie: I know.
[00:25:15] Tiffany: I don’t even know how to begin with that.
[00:25:16] Josie: I feel like whenever people ask me that, then I go blank, and I’m like forgetting names and…
[00:25:21] Tiffany: Oh yeah.
[00:25:22] Josie: Like, if I get an acceptance speech, like, just pray for me.
[00:25:29] Tiffany: Right? Like, the lists are long.
[00:25:31] Josie: Yeah. Well, I want to also say congratulations on completing the doctorate.
[00:25:37] Tiffany: Thank you.
[00:25:38] Josie: I think a lot of people will identify with that story, and are important to hear that all of our pathways to getting that looks different.
[00:25:46] Tiffany: Yes.
[00:25:47] Josie: But you were very much recognized for your work in 2021. You received the NASPA’s Dissertation of the Year award. Oh, my goodness.
[00:25:59] Tiffany: I was shocked.
[00:26:00] Josie: That’s amazing. So, it’s called Indigenizing the Academy, A Storytelling Journey To Native Student Success and Engineering.
[00:26:09] Tiffany: Yes.
[00:26:10] Josie: So, any insight you can, I mean, of course I will link to your ProQuest for the true nerds out there that want to just dig into it. But the lived experience of students, especially in STEM, I think for so many students, especially those of indigenous backgrounds, I think it would be great to hear about.
[00:26:28] Tiffany: Absolutely. Yeah. So, oh my gosh, that was like a 240-page dissertation or something, right? Like, feel like it’s like your life’s work. Talk about hard work. That was it. But yeah, I ended up having seven amazing students from all over the U.S. different institutions. Primarily, looking at indigenous students in undergraduate engineering programs at non-native serving institutions are predominantly white institutions, right? So, looking at their experiences, and what does that model of success look like for persistence in these fields where there’s very, very few of us. I mean, we’re at, like, 0.1%, native students, particularly in science and engineering. And so, it gets even more bleak when you go to, yeah, like, computer science and all of that as well, too.
And so, you know, there’s all this talk and movement toward, “We need more native faculty.” And these, you know, STEM fields and all that too. But first we’ve got to get students moving through these pathways, right? And so, what I ended up coming up with I think, collectively, with these student stories, these seven student stories, and these students that I’m still very much connected with, was that it ended up being this, I came up with my Cherokee model and it was called “utiyvhi,” which means “balance” in Cherokee. And I remember coming up with a medicine wheel graphic of what that looks like for student success in engineering indigenous students.
And I looked at, holistically, from early on understanding and fascination. With STEM, like, when they first kind of made those connections, PK-12 experiences who were big influences in their life. Mentors and role models were very, very important. Whether they were in their family or in school. A lot of more teachers, right? Counselors, or other family members, and relatives that they saw working in technical-type fields, or having parents that really had that understanding of how important it was to put their kids in, like, STEM camps early on. You know, or maybe they had a parent that was in STEM.
And so, that was important to their early fascination and understanding of what engineering is. And one of the students even talked about her, I think, her first time visiting that theme park and seeing a rollercoaster and thinking, “Wow, how cool would that be to learn how to create a rollercoaster?” And, you know, so, already at like the ripe age of six, right? Starting to make those connections and that fascination due to her parents talking about that, too, and putting her in summer camps. And as indigenous women in STEM, right? Like that’s even more intersections. Our women are so underrepresented in these fields.
And then you add, you know, indigenous women to that and it’s even less. So, it’s pretty amazing. And so, that was something I looked at. And then it also meant a lot to once they entered these college campuses, what does support look like at these campuses? And so, it ranged a lot of the participants talked about cultural centers being made, like, native cultural centers or diversity, equity, and inclusion program, or other native organizations on campus that really helped connect them with STEM. And of course, AISES. The organization I work for was mentioned because many of the students were connected through either AISES or SACNAS, which is another national group that supports Chicanos and Native Americans in Science. And so, students were able to gain that social capital, if you will, by getting opportunities, by being involved in these fields, and by getting connected through hands-on learning experiences like internships, research experiences, and labs, ORUs, over the summer opportunities.
And so, those were really key in building that engineering identity for themselves. But it also had to be relevant. You know, oftentimes, they found ways to make it relevant to their own tribal needs. You know, something we talk about across indigenous higher ed. A pinnacle article was Kirkness and Barnhardt back in like the 90’s, early 90’s, which they’re First Nations folks. And they talked about the four Rs of higher education, which is, like, Relevance, Responsibility, Reciprocity, Respect. And so, those four are really key in working with indigenous students. And so, that is really key and a lot of the students talked about that and the work that they were doing. So, one of my students worked in optical engineering, which is truly fascinating because we didn’t offer that at the institution I worked at.
And so, the cool things he was able to do. And, like, even bringing his own, like, Dena, like, epistemology to this work, and integrating language into that. I mean, it was just beautiful to see all the amazing, groundbreaking research these students are able to do, particularly when they have support even if it’s from non-indigenous faculty and staff. Support for bringing their own paradigms to this work. Those opportunities, paid opportunities, too, when you’re working over the summer, getting completely paid opportunities was really pinnacle. This whole range of success really came full circle for students. And even a few of the students I talked with were those that had maybe graduated at least within the last five years from these programs.
So, what are they doing now? And a couple are now faculty too, and several are professionals doing postdocs. So, it’s just amazing to see the impact because they saw there were so few of them. So, they saw their culture as a prideful piece. And that was really the main piece that I had in the center of the medicine well as the sacred fire. And so, the sacred fire for us, in Cherokee, is that that’s usually like when we have our ceremonies and our stomp dances and things like that. We’re going in that cyclical fashion around the sacred fire. And that’s the center of everything. And so, that sacred fire really showcase their cultural identity and how imperative that was to them. Bringing them their whole selves to this field to help them persist and say that that was a prideful point.
That kind of summarizes, in a sense, the different experiences. But I looked through a tribal critical race lens, and I also brought in, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention Shawn Wilson’s work, Research is Ceremony, a book I highly, highly recommend. He talks about this notion of relational accountability. And so, that goes back to that point of when we do research as indigenous researchers with our communities. How that changes everything. It’s not extraction. We’re coming in from the beginning and we build relationships with each other. We talk about who’s our relatives. We have our traditional greetings.
We’re in conversation with each other and making sure that the work that we’re doing from the get-go is reciprocal. You know, that it’s not just for personal gain, it’s to tell true stories and to really elevate their stories within these spaces where you never, they were so happy, all the participants to even share. They hadn’t had opportunities to share their pathways, you know, in this type of fashion. And were really anxious to hear, like, the outcomes. And so, I would always make sure that, after I was doing my theming and coding and coming up with, my interpretations of what they had shared, that was really a big part of it. And that I shared their stories in one chapter. I just focused on who each of these wonderful seven folks were. And so, that it’s really antagonistic to what Western research looks like. You know, we don’t necessarily humanize, always, our participants in this work.
[00:34:09] Josie: Yeah, they’re just data points.
[00:34:11] Tiffany: Yes, yes.
[00:34:12] Josie: We literally change their names and their identities.
[00:34:16] Tiffany: Yes. And, you know, I gave my students an option. I said, you can choose a different name or you can use your own. And I had about half and half, you know, some chose to remain anonymous and some were like, “I am who I am and I’m fine with putting my name out there.” Yeah.
[00:34:32] Josie: Josie and the Podcast is sponsored by Campus Sonar, who partners with higher-ed campuses and associations that value marketing and communications as a strategic ally. Together, they empower leaders with insights from online conversation and social listening data to develop and align their strategies with the goals of the institutions they serve. Join Campus Sonar as they debut insights and expertise from their latest industry trends. Register for the May Webinar on the Campus Sonar website or find the link in the show notes.
We keep coming back to storytelling, which fits so well into this podcast.
[00:35:18] Tiffany: Yeah.
[00:35:19] Josie: So, to kind of give you an insight of who I think my listeners are, is student affairs. But also, marketing and communications professionals, whether on a campus or an agency. And then my parents. Those are my listeners.
[00:35:39] Tiffany: Love it.
[00:35:40] Josie: So, as we think about indigenous, digital storytelling especially. So, in your bio, you share your goal is to, “Dismantle the deficit narrative and hold institutions accountable for providing culturally relevant support and space for indigenous students.” And I do think my colleagues in marketing communications are a little behind overall in, kind of, DEI work and equity, but they are trying and they are open. I think, there is a necessity to have critical conversations and elevate the work. Especially, like you said, was it like 0.001% of engineering students are indigenous.
[00:36:21] Tiffany: Yeah.
[00:36:22] Josie: And so, when you think about what marketers do in higher ed, it’s the recruitment process. It’s retaining. It’s communication after, to keep them connected. So, if I was to, kind of, like, give you a platform right now to speak to marketing and communication professionals, what would you want them to know? And maybe do better, or keep doing, as you think about telling the stories of indigenous students through the student life cycle?
[00:36:50] Tiffany: Honestly, I think it just takes listening. It takes building relationships with these students. So, again, that reciprocity piece, it’s not just a checklist. I know we hear a lot about land acknowledgement, and that is an initial gateway to the conversation. But I think the piece people are often lacking is the action. It’s not a one-off. It’s a continuous piece, right? Like DEI work in general is continuous. And so, it’s saying with working with indigenous communities. So, I think, you know, it’s really powerful when you offer a platform for indigenous students to share their experiences.
So, highlighting them, you know, in these marketing communications and their stories, you’ll find that oftentimes, indigenous students are more than willing to share their stories. Particularly, if they know the purpose and impact that it’s going to have. Because I think a key piece of understanding indigenous students is, and what the research even shows us, that they’re more than willing to give back. And giving back is a key concept within our communities of that, you know, goes back to that whole seven generations quote I shared earlier.
It’s important for us, and even my student participants in my research spoke about how important now that they’re at this place of having a bit more power, if you will, in these spaces. And how important that is now to look back and bring others up with you. And to participate in all these outreach efforts. And so, if they can have this platform to share their stories, they want to. Because they want to be visualized. I think that’s something that we so often see, like, as you mentioned within data, right? People see those numbers and they go, “Well, I mean, there’s not very many of you. So, what do we need to do to be serving, if there’s not very many of you on our campuses?” No, that continues to silence and erase us.
And sadly, to this day, when I attend national meetings on behalf of AISES it’s so important that my presence is there, that someone indigenous is there, because still in 2023, I’m running into where we are completely left out of data sets. And so, I have to ask the question, you know, “Why aren’t we listed here? Did you interview or did you speak to any indigenous students in stem?” “Yes, but there weren’t enough of you.” Well, it’s still important, whether that number’s 0.01 or whatever it is, to visualize us in the data and to separate us out, not lump us together with other groups that continues to make us feel invisible and erased, to really make sure that you are highlighting where we are.
And you know, I think, to dismantle that deficit lens is to put the onus on the institution if you have a responsibility to reach out to us and local tribal nations in your area, and truly build those recipro-grow relationships. And so, that means also putting money where your mouth is, right, and like, making sure that you’re putting allocating resources, both human financial, to building those tribal relationships. So, that maybe not just hiring just one person, maybe that’s a start, like a tribal-liaison-type position or you know, I have colleagues who serve in those, like, reporting to the president roles, right? To help with indigenous relationship building. And I think that’s a star.
But I think it’s also important to hear from the students, you know, and making sure that you’re offering these advisory committee opportunities. You know, what are our students going through? Well, we need to listen to them. We need to offer them these platforms to do so. So, really, I think that comes to really building that foundational point of just building those relationships. Hearing the stories, and sharing them, right, with consent and with the best of intent, of making sure that you’re highlighting our communities in the best of light and then trying to find that common ground.
And I think it’s important that our institutions are really privileging indigenous knowledge. You know, we deal with this in STEM right now that, you know, there’s traditional ecological knowledge. Well, how do I integrate that and weave that into my classroom setting? Well, it also bring in experts, right, that are indigenous to speak to your students? And if you can, please pay them, too, for their knowledge and time. Right. Like snaps.
[00:41:04] Josie: Yes, thank you.
[00:41:05] Tiffany: Because that is something that too often happens and, you know, I’ve known so many folks, indigenous folks that are willing to do it for free. But I’m like, “That’s not fair. No. You’re sharing a lot of important knowledge. You need knowledge that you need to be paid for.” And if anything, or it needs to go back to your tribal nation, right? Like, whatever that can be. I just think making sure that we are building those honest, authentic relationships with tribal council leaders and making sure that it has their best interests at heart as well, too.
[00:41:37] Josie: Yeah, go directly to the source. I think that’s such a great suggestion is, I do think, you know, public relations, university relations and marketing communications, they do a lot of community work.
[00:41:46] Tiffany: Yeah.
[00:41:47] Josie: Do you have that relations with your local tribal nations? I think that is so, so, important.
[00:41:56] Tiffany: It is. And I think just showing up, you know, wanting to set up meetings and going to them. Because oftentimes, they’re told to come to us, you know?
[00:42:05] Josie: Oh, okay. That’s great.
[00:42:07] Tiffany: Yes. That’s really key. And I think even when we think about recruitment and outreach of indigenous students to your campuses, it’s the same thing. I think, you should be starting. We all know, in the research, like PK-12 outreach is so important. Or the earlier the better, right? And so, if you want your students to be familiar with your institutions, you got to start early and you need to include their families. Because their families are everything. And making sure their families understand well, “What is the academy going to offer my student?” Right? And make it very relevant.
So, I think, you know, and I talk about this in my research and my discussion is, you know, involving current indigenous students, bringing them with you if you’re doing these types of activities, and so they can see those role models that were really key to continuing seeing themselves in these fields and in the academy. So, I think that’s just really, really important, too. And that that shows that you value them in these spaces
[00:43:05] Josie: Well, to shift it a little bit more right into you. Some more heart work here. A theme of this podcast season has been wellness and mental health. You shared earlier that you have been going through your own, health journey this last year. If folks are connected with you on Facebook, we’ll be updated. But I’ll let you, kind of, share your story about how you’re taking care of yourself right now, knowing that, you know, you got handed some challenging cards, but your joy continues. And I’m here to support and celebrate you through it.
[00:43:44] Tiffany: Thank you, Josie. I appreciate that. I appreciate you offering me this platform to share because I’m definitely very open about it. I think it’s important to be open about it, so that others that maybe given this news aren’t so alone. Because it’s like joining a whole different club that you never wanted to be a part of, but now you are. So, I was diagnosed with stage four metastatic breast cancer last August. Well, if we take a step back, actually June 20th was when I first got my initial breast cancer diagnosis and they had found a lump in my left breast. And at the time they thought, “Oh, we’ll just do a lumpectomy. All good. You may have to get treatment post-surgery.”
But all that shifted very quickly after going in and getting more genetic tests, I found out I had the BRCA2 gene, which is one of the breast cancer genes. There’s BRCA1 and there’s BRCA2. BRCA2 is not as intense, but still it means that it’s something that can be passed down to my kids, right? So, that’s immediately what I think about and the fact that no one in my family, to our knowledge, had had breast cancer in the past made this even more shocking to our family. And, you know, I think of myself as a very healthy person overall, but cancer doesn’t discriminate when it comes to that. And so, these were just the cards I was dealt and in a routine PET scan, just before I was going to be starting treatment, revealed that the breast cancer had spread to my right hip and my right back bone. And they found a little mass in my liver.
And so, I had those three spots light up. That was very shocking news. I remember when my doctor delivered that news. Well, I got the call the night before. I was supposed to start chemo in August and I was just in total shock. I mean, I couldn’t even speak, to be honest, when she shared this and my whole family was with me, my parents, and my partner at that time. So, then, you know, I think once I had to let it settle and really, knowledge is power. So, I saw it as I needed to connect with as many folks as possible that have been through this, that are currently living with metastatic breast cancer. Because for folks that don’t understand, it is terminal and there’s no cure right at the moment. Even though breast cancer is the most researched cancer there is.
Stage four is totally separate from like stages one through three, and the experience itself in the journey. And, you know, stages one through three, typically you can get surgery, other treatments, and they say there’s a cure. Well, stage four, it’s just managing it really now. So, it’s just, it’s not a matter of, you know, if you’re able to manage it for a while, it’s if when it’ll come back. I will say the good news is after 12 weeks of treatment of chemo in the fall, and having to halt all of my travel and having a super supportive supervisor and workplace, and I’m so blessed to have at AISES, I came back cancer-free with my PET scan and that was just before the Thanksgiving holiday in the fall.
And so, at that time my oncologist recommended I continue with immunotherapy treatment just by itself every three weeks, which I’m still doing. And I have had, I’m getting PET scans every three months just to check on how things are going. And my latest PET scan in February revealed that I’m still cancer-free. So, I’m thrilled with how my body’s responded to a very aggressive cancer because I have what’s called triple negative breast cancer, which is one of the most difficult ones to treat. So, I think at that point I had to come to terms with. I need to take time for myself to heal in different ways, emotionally, physically, spiritually, just to make sure I’m staying in balance.
And obviously, things were totally out of balance and I think I knew this, but I didn’t realize to what extent till I got that diagnosis. And it was definitely a big wake-up call. And so, I think ways that I’ve, as you mentioned, like, “How are you taking care of yourself?” You know, immediately, I said I’m taking control here. And before I started treatment, we had a brave shave party at my house with my closest my family all around me. And we Facebook lived it to everybody. So, that’s how we used technology with that. And that way, folks near and far could be involved in this very special moment. Because it was very emotional.
I think it didn’t hit until I was starting to get my head shaved by my partner in life, which we’re coming up on 15 years of marriage this summer. And my kids, and my nieces and nephews were there. And so, it made it very, very special, but still very difficult. But, you know, I had people just sharing just how powerful that was to see me taking control of my own experience. And I think, at that point I was just like, “Okay, to my oncologist. The next visit, I said, “So, what, what’s the plan? How are we going to tackle this thing?” And I knew that I needed to find other avenues of supporting myself beyond just modern, western medicine. That’s come a very long way, I will say.
But I also believe in my own tribal ways of healing. And I had so many of my indigenous family, near and far, that were like, “I’m burning cedar for you.” “I’m throwing out tobacco.” “We brought it to our own families and we’ve been praying for you and smudging for you.” And that meant so, so, much. I mean, I feel like I was constantly crying, all the time, but it was healing tears at the same time. And it helped me strengthen, I think, my spiritual journey as well, too. And I also ended up adding Eastern medicine into the mix, with some acupuncture, which I’ve continued doing. But I was doing that weekly during treatment, and making sure that I stayed super hydrated. That was the best advice I got throughout treatment. And that I needed to change my diet.
Living in Oklahoma, we’d a lot of meat and, you know, that’s just a way of life. It’s hard to get outside of fried food, sometimes. And so, it was having to completely remove that from my diet, get plant-based, focused for that, definitely, during chemo time. And I’ve continued that but I’ve let myself relax a little bit now. So, with all those things combined, I had a successful journey so far. And I made sure I visited a naturologist, too, and to strengthen my immunity with vitamins. Supplements as well, too.
So, I think for anybody that’s going through this, mushrooms to me are like the key if you do your research on that. And there’s a company called Real Mushrooms that I use that I know is like legit. Gives good quality products. And my acupuncturist had recommended it. She’s practically become my life coach, my acupuncturist, and guiding me to really natural remedies of healing.
So, I think with all those things combined, it really has been truly helpful in my journey. And obviously, if you go through anything this transformational, it totally changes your perspective on life. And there was a time that I could have probably said, “I am going to go ahead and stop being IPKC chair. These extra responsibilities that I have.” Because I was able to sort of take a little step back from work even, with the permission of my supervisor, so I could focus on my own healing. And I was very fortunate to do that. Because I think that’s a big part of this process too, is you really have to prioritize your well-being.
And, as a woman and a mother, that’s not something I often did well. And I would say many of us do well. And that became a priority because I said if I want to be here to live through these moments with my children, my very young children, and with my partner and my aging parents, and you know, then I need to take care of myself and prioritize my health.
And so, I think, with that, I’d love to share with to folks to make sure that, I think, we need to, as women, to be getting our mammograms much sooner than 40 years old. Because I can’t tell you how many young women I know that are under 40 that are getting these diagnoses, anywhere from stage one to stage four. And having to deal with this at such a young age. And I mean, I had just turned 40, you know, I was thinking it was the best time of my life. My career was in a great place. I felt my life was, and then boom, I get hit with this news. And I felt like that’s Creator’s way of centering me back where I need to be to and my true purpose. And it helped me eliminate all these extra things that were unimportant to me and were taking a lot of energy away from me.
And so, IPKC, I knew that I still wanted to continue to do this work. And as long as I was going to be here, go ahead and finish out my term. And I’m thankful that I did because I think we’ve actually done some of the best work we’ve ever done in the last like six months or so. All of that has been just a full circle of support, from folks near and far, honestly. And elders and family members and even folks I’ve just met that hear my story have just shared how inspiring it is to see that joy. Because I just don’t see the point of worrying about something. It does nothing but add extra stress to our bodies. Let’s focus on the positive here and now and what we have. And I feel like I’ve been able to do that and make sure I’m here for every moment with my kids.
[00:53:10] Josie: Well, I really appreciate you sharing your story. Your resiliency, your willingness, your ability to bring community together and even, like, livestream when you shaved your head. Like, I saw that I was, I was like, I would be under a table. But I mean, it was, it was so inspiring.
Because the other reason, it’s not just, you know, like for posting’s sake, but especially cancer affects so many those that receive the diagnosis or impacted by it. And it can feel so isolating. And having that perspective, I think, the mental fight is just as important as the physical, too.
[00:53:55] Tiffany: Oh, my goodness, yes.
[00:53:56] Josie: So, we are just all rallying for you.
[00:54:00] Tiffany: Thank you, Josie. I really appreciate that. It’s meant a lot. I mean, to have people, like, I didn’t even know had dealt with cancer too, right? Like, you hear all the stories now once you’re in this club. People that have really been thriving, even with like a stage four diagnosis living 10, 20 years outside of that diagnosis. So, you know, each of our experiences with cancer is very unique, but it still is important to have that knowledge and power.
And I would say to folks, like, when I joined all these Facebook groups, thanks to other friends that have survived cancer, that was one of the biggest helps to me with any kind of medicine questions and just the experience in itself if you’re about to endure surgery, all those things. Like, I would say find those communities of support, whether in person, digital. The digital technologies really opened up these opportunities, right, that I wouldn’t have had because I don’t, I didn’t know anybody instantly that’s had stage four metastatic breast cancer. I was like, “Where do I go for information?” And that was really, really helpful was those Facebook groups.
[00:55:03] Josie: Right. Yeah. Feel free to send me a couple of those.
[00:55:05] Tiffany: I will.
[00:55:06] Josie: In case folks are looking for a couple you’d recommend. But things happen in our lives that remind us and drive us back to purpose. And, you do so much for others and advocating that’s needed. But also, advocating for yourself as you need. So, I’ll also list all types of ways folks can get in touch with you and continue to celebrate and be with you through your story. I always ask all of my guests because we also don’t know, like, Twitter might disappear tomorrow.
[00:55:38] Tiffany: True.
[00:55:40] Josie: Or Facebook. Like, who knows? Or AI’s going to take over.
[00:55:44] Tiffany: Oh, yeah.
[00:55:45] Josie: But if you knew your last post, let’s say you use Facebook a lot, someone’s going to be your last post that you’re going to put up on Facebook, what would you want it to be about?
[00:55:55] Tiffany: Oh, that was so easy for me. Family. I would want it to be about my family, and my kids because I mean, I think that’s a really powerful thing is that my kids are my legacy. So, I think about when you’re forced in this position, you’re forced to think about death in the afterlife much sooner than you really want to. It’s made me realize, you know, that my kids are everything and I want to make sure and then teach them as much as I know, with the time that I have. And so, I would definitely want it to focus on them.
[00:56:25] Josie: So, what is your why for leading online? No matter the platform, what’s the purpose? What are you hoping to make an impact because you use social media?
[00:56:35] Tiffany: I think it’s truly just, I mean, it’s as simple as bringing joy and light to a world that can sometimes bring so much darkness. Particularly, since COVID and just other political things that have arisen over the last, you know, recent years. I think, oftentimes, social media can serve one of two purposes. It can be a happy light or it could just be adding extra stress, and overwhelming FoMO or whatever when you’re comparing yourself to others, right? I love that quote of, “Comparison is the thief of joy.” I just, I do agree with that. And sometimes if we need to take breaks from that, that’s fine. But I make sure I’m only reading and consuming positive pieces. And that really helps fuel my life every day. And so, I hope to bring that for others. Just that, what is the true meaning of life? I think, for me, it’s to bring joy and happiness and light for this short amount of time that we’re all here.
[00:57:30] Josie: Well, I can’t wait to hug you in person at NASPA.
[00:57:34] Tiffany: Oh, likewise.
[00:57:36] Josie: But also, to get this episode out. So, much insight, so much light, and just thank you so much for your time sharing your stories. This was wonderful.
[00:57:47] Tiffany: Well, thank you for this platform and for the invitation to be a part of your podcast, Dr. Josie. So, it’s a pleasure.
[00:57:55] Josie: What a joy to get to chat with Tiffany and have the chance to see her, even if it was ever so briefly at NASPA. Literally, it was a drive-by hug in between conference sessions, as we were both pretty busy. We should all take a page out of Tiffany’s book, where she strives to bring joy, happiness, and light to a world that can have some darkness at times. Now, this interview is far overdue, centering indigenous students as well as the amazing professionals who make up our industry, who serve native students and bring their own lived experience.
We discuss both the light and dark of all of life. And the hard stuff. This darkness of stage four cancer diagnosis has only brought Tiffany’s light out even brighter. I, and I’m sure many who know and adore her, are so thankful that her recent PET scan shows her as cancer-free.
But, wow. Throughout all her treatments, she has continued to show ways of love and joy and continues to help her community, her nation, her family, and our industry. I just give her a standing ovation for that. So, if you’ll just do me a favor, don’t even like, well, actually, yes, you should share this episode. But wherever you are, if you’re driving in the car, if you are washing dishes, if you’re sitting at your desk, I just want you to take a half a moment to send love, strength, light to Tiffany and her family as she continues her warrior journey.
So, get back to our interview. There were a number of things that stood out to me. I was taking notes. Not just for you, but for me too. And of course, she always rooted it back to her family and she said, “How is the work I’m doing going to affect my children access and opportunities that they have?” And we talk about where marketing communication is in serving, in featuring, in telling the story of indigenous students, and the responsibility that we have, too, in opening up access. Tiffany reminds us of the importance of representation. Understanding that there are so many non-linear experiences for tribal students.
So, for example, when you seek them out, you might need to give more of a deeper why. And not just that you’re going to put them in a collage of photos, but we want to tell a deeper story. I also loved her note when you’re working with your local tribes, based on where your colleges and universities are, to go to them, physically. Leave your campus to go to where they are.
And finally, she gave us a great framework that would be so timely for, no matter if you are in marketing, student affairs, academics, faculty, maybe to review your programs, your communications, the four R’s, Relevance, Responsibility, Reciprocity, And Respect. So, a call to action that I leave you with kind of goes back to Tiffany’s purpose, which without even asking her, she led the interview with. And that she leans into a purpose of serving tribal communities across the nation and into Canada. That it’s all corely directed into her family.
And then toward the end, when I asked her, what’s her why for leading online, she talked about bringing joy, happiness, and light into a world that can bring darkness at times, and how this joy is also overcoming comparison, which can be the thief of joy. So, what is your purpose? What are you aiming to do? What are you overcoming? What is the light that you’re bringing to overcome that darkness? Whether if it’s on Twitter or in your daily life? I want to hear it.
Tiffany, thank you so much. You truly are joy, love, light, spirit. I’m so thankful for your time and getting to know you more.
Thanks, y’all, for checking out this episode. This was such a great one and this whole season has been so amazing to do. We just have one more episode left. So, if you all would do me a huge favor, jump onto iTunes, and go to Spotify, give a review, share it with your colleagues, make sure you’re subscribed because I don’t want to jump ahead of myself, but I think we’re going to come back for another season.
I have just loved how this one has went, hint, hint, University FM. And then, of course, know that I am here for connections on social media. You’ll find me @josieahlquistthepodcast, Twitter and Instagram. And all the goodness that we talk about, and all the episodes are on my website, josieahlquist.com/podcast. My work is definitely heating up and getting exciting from getting to go back to campuses to speak conferences and a lot of consulting and coaching work. You can learn more about me, of course, on my website or grab my book, Digital Leadership in Higher Education, and a big, old bear hug to the sponsors of the show, Campus Sonar, and the producers of the show, University FM.
I’m sending big, digital hugs, loves, and waves to whatever corner of the world you’re listening in from. This is been Josie and the Podcast.