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Three Reasons Why a Native MBA is About More Than Business

profile photo of young womanBusiness skills are certainly essential in any good business degree experience, but they alone will not create meaningful social and environmental change or provide greater economic opportunity.  Only when students possess a strong network of support, a sense of what works, and an appreciation of what doesn’t can they be powerful leaders of change.  Here are some examples:

A shared “best-practice” environment. A universal truth of our experience working with members of more than two dozen tribal communities in the Gonzaga University MBA in American Indian Entrepreneurship program is that there is no universal “tribal” identity.  Every tribe has its own governance structure, its own resource opportunities, its own leadership, and its own ways to doing things.  One of the most important elements of the Gonzaga MBA-AIE experience has been and continues to be the opportunity to learn how their colleagues in other tribal organizations get things done – how they move change, how they identify opportunities, how they build coalitions, and how they examine and explain results.

Tcloseup of calculator, paper clips and peno enable compassion and common understanding of challenges. Just as our program provides a pulpit for students to explore and understand what is working, similar value is found in understanding when well-meaning organizations are heading in the wrong direction.  The challenges facing tribal communities are vast, often relying on resources that are unavailable, expertise that can be difficult to muster, and a history that promotes a pessimistic outlook.  Our students benefit from the opportunity to share where things went wrong, and in doing so understand that while sometimes it might be better everywhere else, sometimes it’s not.  They learn that we all face the same challenges, challenges that call for broader intervention with policy, structure, education.

people wearing graduation caps and gownsTo create community. While a great deal of what we do in the classroom focuses on providing tools and applications, an essential byproduct of that experience is the development of a community of learners dedicated to themselves and each other.  Our 60-plus alumni stay in touch with each other – particularly with their cohorts, with whom they spend two years learning skills and gaining knowledge alongside one another.  Given the systemic nature of the problems faced by many native communities and the vast human and financial resources needed to fix them, relationships are important. One of the most powerful tools our students possess is the ability to call a friend and colleague who understands their challenge, knows their abilities, and can recommend action.

Over the past fifteen years, nearly 75 students have taken part in the Gonzaga University MBA in American Indian Entrepreneurship.  This program, originally created to provide opportunities to business educators in native communities and tribal colleges, has adapted over the years to focus on one of the most pressing challenges in Indian Country – the development of empowered individuals who seek change and possess the technical skills to make change sustainable and meaningful.

closeup of a 2017 graduation cap and tasselOurs is not the only program to focus specifically on the challenges facing tribal communities and native populations, and in the current environment of higher education where every degree and program must justify its unique contribution to the educational landscape, it is appropriate to ask the question why we need “native” MBA programs.  We need them because they help students and businesses thrive in Indigenous communities.

The Fading American Dream

To All the Graduates…

Dear Graduates,

Congratulations! To all the high school students who will graduate this spring – we applaud you. There is no denying that high school has many obstacles but you’ve persevered and you’ve made it! Rest assured, if there were some late nights and groggy mornings that you spent working on a range of subjects and extra-curricular activities, those efforts were not in vain.

students posing on a balconyAs you grace the stage – diploma in hand and cap on head – know that you are a symbol of success. Also know that there are many individuals in your communities who are proud of your achievement, including family members, friends, tutors, mentors, teachers, and coaches.

As I reflect back on my high school experience I can easily attribute my success to Pathways to Education. At the time, I couldn’t have guessed that walking through the Pathways office would mean that I would walk out, four years later, as a distinguished graduate. Pathways provided me with the confidence to achieve academic excellence. The tutoring sessions I attended helped me maintain honor roll status while the mentoring sessions significantly boosted my self-esteem. High school taught me various lessons; however, personal growth was one that I learned outside of the classroom.

I can’t remember the exact grades I achieved in my final year of high school but I do remember the friends I made, the teachers I admired, the mentors I respected, and the relationships I formed. For me, high school was about asking questions, offering ideas, and working together with others, lessons that have served me in good stead.

three women wearing graduation caps and gownsThe network of people and organizations applauding your success are also the ones cheering you on towards your post-secondary aspirations. I am grateful for the support of organizations like the Johnson Scholarship Foundation because they recognize the complex socio-economic barriers some students face in addition to providing them with the resources they need to overcome those barriers. Having access to scholarships helped me to achieve academic success that would not have been possible without financial aid.

Whatever your future may hold, know that you can take many of the lessons you have learned in high school with you. I wish continued success to the graduating class of 2017!



Stigma Hates Company: 5 Ways to Challenge Stigma as a Community

Mentor working with student drawingAmong the challenges in contemporary education is the fight against stigma aimed at the 1 in 5 who learn differently. Stigma in education can keep a child struggling. However, we all have the tools to make a difference. The 1 in 5 who learn differently can be among the most powerful voices in fighting stigma, and in bringing along the 4 in 5 as well, changing the trajectory of all learners.

When you tell your story to others, you are no longer alone. You have an amazing community at your side. Something that was once faceless now has a face. Something that was invisible is now visible. Storytelling is one of the most empowering tools in the fight against stigma.

If you have a story to tell about learning differences—whether it’s your own life story or the story of a loved one—make a point of sharing it. All it takes is 2 minutes. Here are some pointers to consider in your daily acts of challenging stigma.

Mentor and young mentee1) Bust common myths. Learning disabilities like ADHD or dyslexia have absolutely nothing to do with native intelligence. Pervasive myths about learning disability—myths that keep kids struggling in the back of a classroom in silence—need to be broken. Don’t be afraid to confront stigma when you see it.

2) Invite people in. Once someone knows they are in the company of different learners, they can comfortably and purposefully address their individual challenges in community. The more we share, the more everyone will know about the 1 and 5 among us. Stigma hates company, so let’s bring everybody in on the conversation.

Two young men holding up a sign3) Language counts. The flames of every movement are sparked by the unacceptability of certain language. We all know deeply hurtful words that were once, sadly, commonplace. A piece of providing a successful education for all students is gaining fluency in the language of learning and attention issues. When we tell our authentic stories of the lived experience of LD / ADHD, we will change the language. Phrases like “ADD moment,”  “I’m numbers dyslexic” and “People with learning disabilities are just lazy” will be a thing of the past.

4) Highlight success. Hollywood directors, senators, arctic explorers, self-made millionaires—some of the most prominent and daring people out there have succeeded with a learning disability at their side. Scott Kelly, the first astronaut to spend a year in space, recently released an interview about his struggles with attention issues as a kid. There are countless examples of adults who have succeeded not in spite of their learning styles, but because of them!

group photo of students holding up their hands5) Become an ally. Teachers, parents, scoutmasters, firefighters, school guidance counselors, soccer coaches, software developers, librarians. These are all potential allies and advocates. In fact, 1 in 5 are likely to have a learning or attention issue themselves!

You might be the “4 in 5.”

You might be or become “LD /ADHD and Proud to Be.”

You or a loved one might have an undiagnosed learning difference.

No matter who you are, our community is never more than one voice, one face, one mind away. Share your story, listen to a story. With stories we build community, and in community, stigma has no place.

Clarke Helps Children with Hearing Loss Achieve Remarkable Outcomes

“So where are the children with hearing loss?”

older man playing with childrenThis is a common question from visitors to preschool classrooms at Clarke Schools for Hearing and Speech. And it’s a reasonable one, considering the loud and animated chatter that fills our campuses.

Clarke was founded 150 years ago and our mission has always been to help children who are deaf or hard of hearing succeed in the wider world. For most of Clarke’s history, children lived at our residential program full-time, where they spent the majority of their academic years.

young student looking up at teacherThings have changed dramatically. Since the mid-1990s, the average age of hearing loss identification has dropped from two-and-a-half to three years old to less than four months old. This has allowed for services to begin at much younger ages, and during the most important time of neurological and cognitive development—birth to age three. Thanks to early identification, advanced technology like cochlear implants and hearing aids, and Listening and Spoken Language (LSL) services like those provided by Clarke, many children who are deaf or hard of hearing are now ready to enter mainstream classrooms by kindergarten. Clarke’s new generation of alumni have access to the same opportunities as their peers with typical hearing—they are succeeding academically, starring in school plays, excelling on sports teams, playing in bands and so much more.

Clarke has leveraged its 150-year expertise to evolve in response to these significant changes. Rather than require children to come to a residential program, Clarke is now able to keep families intact while providing the early services and continuing support necessary to help these children succeed in their own communities.

student with toy pointing while being held by teacherThe result: Clarke is helping more children than ever before achieve remarkable outcomes. Typically, more than 80 percent of Clarke’s preschool children score at or above the median score in auditory comprehension, expressive communication and total language as compared to children with typical hearing. Growing numbers of children are able to transition into mainstream programs earlier than kindergarten.

The Johnson Scholarship Foundation has played an especially pivotal role in this. JSF helped Clarke successfully implement a teleservices program that expands Clarke’s reach, and maximizes a family’s ability to support their child’s Listening and Spoken Language (LSL) development during the critical period from birth to age three. JSF’s early support has helped Clarke to build the largest teleservices program of its kind, serving children in almost any community in the US and around the world. As a result, families are no longer inhibited by distance, time zones or medical challenges to obtain the services their child needs to thrive.

young girl playing at a playgroundThe success of Clarke’s physical locations in Northampton, Boston, New York, Philadelphia and Jacksonville, FL—along with the growth of similar programs in other parts of the country—has led to a decrease in the number of children who need specialized, segregated school-aged programs, along with unprecedented numbers of children who are successfully participating in their local mainstream schools. To ensure their continued success, Clarke offers mainstream support services for children with hearing loss who are learning in typical classroom settings. This service has grown exponentially in the past ten years as the population of children with hearing loss in mainstream school settings has dramatically increased. Clarke is the largest nonprofit provider of support services for mainstreamed children with hearing loss in the US (and probably the world).

As both hearing technology and our service model continue to be refined and improved, the outcomes for the children we serve are stronger than ever before. Just spend a few moments with our preschoolers to see—and hear—the potential.