Sisseton Graduate Learns Form Travels to AIHEC

Nov 15th, 2010 | By | Category: 22-2: Crossing Borders, Winter 2010, Tribal College News

By Pam Wynia


"Take advantage of the moment, and expand your mind," says Eastman.

Lee Ann Eastman, a 2010 graduate of Sisseton Wahpeton College (SWC, Sisseton, S.D.), is a member of the Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate and grew up in Sisseton, SD, and in the hills of Big Coulee. She chose to earn her Associate’s Degree in Dakota Studies to help her gain a deeper understanding of herself and her culture.

During her three years at SWC, Eastman benefited from many travel opportunities: In 2009, she took an SWC-sponsored visit to St. Paul, MN, to tour the University of Minnesota campus. She also attended the spring 2009 student American Indian Higher Education Consortium (AIHEC) competition in Bismarck, ND.

In 2010, she accompanied SWC President Diana Canku to the 2010 AIHEC winter conference in Washington, DC. She also attended the spring 2010 student AIHEC competition in Phoenix. While there, she received an honorable mention in the Fashion Show for a dress she made and participated in the Knowledge Bowl and the Business Bowl. These trips were some of the most rewarding parts of her college career, and she says that the contacts she gained through networking have changed her life.

Being chosen as the SWC student representative to the winter AIHEC presidents’ meeting was especially meaningful. “Through this experience, I met so many people and realized the enormous opportunity that we as Natives have,” she says. During this trip, Eastman met South Dakota Senators Tim Johnson (D) and John Thune (R) and North Dakota Senators Kent Conrad (D) and Byron Dorgan (D). She also met with Representatives Stephanie Herseth Sandlin (D-SD) and Earl Pomeroy (D-ND).

Following graduation, Eastman, 31, worked in Washington, DC, with the Washington Internship for Native Students (WINS) program—an opportunity she attributes to her trip to the winter AIHEC conference.

“No matter what the situation is, always take the good from it and learn all that you can from the experience. Take advantage of the moment, and expand your mind to all the world has to offer. Do not be afraid to grow as a person. If you have the opportunity to speak, do it. Do anything that is asked of you and people will notice you; they will remember you and this may open many more doors,” she says. “Always be proactive and it will pay off.”

She plans to continue her education with a Bachelor’s Degree in Native American Studies and then pursue her master’s degree. Her goal is to teach the Dakota language and culture to younger tribal members.

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