The Fund honors Sherry Allison of SIPI

Mar 6th, 2014 | By | Category: 25-4: Nation Building, Tribal College News
By Dina Horwedel

HONOREE OF THE YEAR. Dr. Sherry Allison of SIPI.

The American Indian College Fund has named Dr. Sherry Allison (Diné), president of Southwestern Indian Polytechnic Institute (SIPI, Albuquerque, NM), as Tribal College Honoree of the Year. The prestigious award, funded by the Adolph Coors Foundation, was created to recognize a distinguished individual who has made a positive and lasting impact on the tribal college movement. Dr. Allison will be honored at a special ceremony celebrating her contributions on March 16 at the American Indian Higher Education Consortium spring student conference in Billings, Montana.

Assistant Secretary of Indian Affairs Larry Echohawk appointed Dr. Allison as president of SIPI in 2010, a position she has held since then. Allison has worked with the Bureau of Indian Education in various capacities and has more than 30 years of professional experience in American Indian education. She is the recipient of the U.S. Department of Education’s Robert Harris Academic Fellowship and has served on numerous national and state boards, task force committees, and as president of the National Indian Education Association (1999-2000).

As president of SIPI, Allison has addressed accreditation issues, renewed confidence, and built enthusiasm among faculty, staff, students, and regents for the institute’s mission and goals. She describes herself as a servant leader and values each person’s contribution. “I listen to our staff and students and try my best to acknowledge their concerns and recommendations,” she says. “Student success is why we must succeed at what we do…not one person is more important than the other.”

Dr. Allison says she identifies strongly with the challenges that tribal college students face because of her own background. Raised in the Navajo Nation, on a farm near Shiprock, New Mexico, she was one of eight children who shared a two-room house with no modern conveniences. “My father had a fifth grade education and my mother finished the third grade,” she said. “Realizing the challenges they faced with limited education, they both impressed on all their children the need for a higher education. They knew that education was a way out of poverty.”

Allison believes that tribal colleges are not just institutions of higher learning, but places where Native students receive an abundance of support, acceptance, and healing that helps them move forward with their lives. “This is where my passion comes from. When I see our students I see myself; they are me,” she says.

Upon learning that she was named the Fund’s Tribal College Honoree of the Year, Allison stated: “It is not just me that deserves this award—I don’t feel one person deserves recognition. We are a team. Collectively, we made progress and we all did this together.”

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