Thursday, June 28, 2012

Top 6 Moments @ Graduate Horizons

When I sat down to write this post I wondered, Where do I start? The amazing lunch lecture that inspired a standing ovation? The Harvard Law School dorm experience? Meeting someone from the blog world whom I've admired for years?

Well, why not just dive right in? Presenting...

My Top 6 Grad Horizons Moments

6. Meeting Adrienne K.
While I was super excited for GH, I was also SCARED: A) Because as a "Canadian" (I see the border as a construct) I knew there would be a learning curve for me to understand the U.S. college system, and B) there was certainly something intimidating (and thrilling) to be at Harvard University.

One comforting fact was that I knew I was going to meet Adrienne K. of Native Appropriations, who was on the tiny, powerhouse GH organizing committee. Just as in her writing, Adrienne was smart, witty, and ambitious in person. I got to hear about her amazing research, talk blogs, and she sent the GHers home with an honest, enlightening talk on what it's like to be the only Native doctoral student at Harvard Graduate School of Education.

Late night working on personal statement (me) and journal article reviews (Adrienne)

5. Fleshing out my research idea
Although she isn't in my field AT ALL, Dr. Sheila Thomas really pushed me to define and articulate my research interests, which is key when applying to PhD programs. Each night when the day's programming wrapped up around 8-9, GH students and faculty would take over the couches and tables in the lobby and pour over drafts (after drafts, after drafts...) of personal statements, CVs, letters, and just converse. It was one of these conversations that allowed me to expand the boundaries of my potential research subject!

4. "Justice is what love looks like in public." -Phil Lee
The event was chock full of speakers who shared their stories, inspired us to achieve greatness, and empowered us to build our nations. One of the most powerful speakers was Phil Lee, a lawyer and HGSE doctoral candidate (alongside Adrienne!). His talk was about moments that precipitated change, the Griswald 9, and how student agency, voice, and motivation can make a difference.

He said that beyond typical reasons involving money and power, love is the strongest motivation to have to go to grad school. I think this resonated for a lot of us because that's one of--if not the--main reasons we're applying to these schools: for the love of our people and the determination to contribute to change.

3. An "AHA" moment at 30,000 feet
On the plane to and from Boston, I was reading X-Marks: Native Signatures of Assent by Scott Richard Lyons (which I'm loving).

On the way to Boston for GH, I was struggling to conceptualize x-marks as Lyons presented them: signatures of assent, although made under conditions of duress and coercion, that intended towards a new and brighter future. I couldn't get past the poor conditions that these x-marks have us in today and the seeming lack of respect for our people at the times of signing.

On the way back home, it hit me: I am my parents' x-mark. I got it. I am proud to have been raised by parents who, although they never completed post-secondary education, have been so successful. And I think, as self-centered as this might sound (who am I kidding? How many times have I dropped "Harvard" in this post? Ha!), my brother (who got his first pilot license at 16!) and I are their greatest accomplishments. In making certain sacrifices as a young family (to work rather than finish college, to move away from their families to the city, etc.), they assented to a life where my brother and I would have space to reach our dreams.

2. Indigenizing the veritas

Photo courtesy of Jason at HUNAP

As Adrienne tweeted: "Definitely the most Indians in one place at Harvard in a looong time. I'm so proud!"


1. Speaking from the heart
This list wasn't in any particular order, but one of the greatest things I took home was something I couldn't see or touch.

Some of the most inspiring people at the event spoke from their hearts. Rather than speaking from their heads (trying to sound smart, caring too much about how you're being perceived... both of which I'm guilty of), leaders like Carmen, Phil, Adrienne, and Jason spoke directly from the heart. They told us about how one small student action had giant effects years later, about their families, and about their own struggles. I am so grateful for the warm, trusting, and healthy environment that was nurtured at GH and the stories that were shared. These memories I will carry with me.

Kichi migwech.


And my life wouldn't be, well, my life without some less-than-stellar moments...

6 a.m. mornings!
'nuff said.

Racism on campus
One student was called "Pocahontas" and when we walked to Harvard Yard to take the above photo, someone overheard a stander-by comment along the lines of, "Oops, I forgot to wear my feathers and bare feet today." But we didn't let these things get us down; rather, we'll use them as fuel to propel us toward our goals and as reminders about why we're here.

I've never lived or stayed in residence and I have to admit, I was excited to see what it was all about. It looked pretty good in Felicity and with my first dorm experience being at Harvard, it had to be pretty sweet, right? Wrong. I couldn't get into bed if my desk chair was pulled out and the thin, scratchy sheets and blankets were saran-wrapped on the bed, prison-style! Yes, even at Harvard.

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