Celebrating Native and Indigenous Higher Education Scholarship

November is Native American Heritage Month (NAHM), and as we in the HESA program pause during UConn’s fall break, we reflect on the critical importance of recognizing and honoring the role of Native American and Indigenous scholars, practices, and thought in our field. UConn’s campuses are located on land that is the territory of the Mohegan, Mashantucket Pequot, Eastern Pequot, Schaghticoke, Golden Hill Paugussett, Nipmuc, and Lenape Peoples, who have stewarded this land throughout the generations. We thank them for their strength and resilience in protecting this land, and aspire to uphold our responsibilities according to their example. Native and Indigenous people bring rich knowledge and experiences to our educational spaces, including the field of higher education and student affairs. Indigenous methodologies, pedagogies, and existence in higher education are acts of resistance against an oppressive educational system that has expropriated native lands and attempted to erase native knowledge and ways of living. 

In celebration of NAHM, we highlight some of those Native and Indigenous methodologies, pedagogies, and practices in higher education and student affairs. We offer a very brief selection of resources below, which may serve as a starting point for further engagement. We encourage members of our HESA community to engage with these and other resources to deepen your learning about Native and Indigenous communities, educational experiences, and ways of knowing. 

Professional and Scholarly Communities

Indigenous Student Affairs Network (ISAN)

ACPA Native, Aboriginal, and Indigenous Coalition (NAIC)

NASPA Indigenous Peoples Knowledge Community (IPKC)

Edited Volumes

Beyond Access: Indigenizing Programs for Native American Student Success (2018), edited by Heather J. Shotton, Shelly C. Lowe and Stephanie J. Waterman

Reclaiming Indigenous Research in Higher Education (2018), edited by Robin Starr Minthorn and Heather J. Shotton

Beyond the Asterisk: Understanding Native Students in Higher Education (2013) edited by Heather J. Shotton, Shelly C. Lowe, Stephanie J. Waterman

Journal Articles

“New Research Perspectives on Native American Students in Higher Education”  (2019), Stephanie J. Waterman

“I Thought You’d Call Her White Feather”: Native Women and Racial Microaggressions in Doctoral Education (2017) Heather J. Shotton

“Home Away From Home: Native American Students’ Sense of Belonging During Their First Year in College” (2016) Amanda R. Tachine, Nolan L. Cabrera & Eliza Yellow Bird

“Toward a Tribal Critical Race Theory in Education” (2006) Bryan McKinley Jones Brayboy

UConn at ASHE Highlights

UConn faculty, students, and post-docs from the Department of Educational Leadership, the HESA program, and Office of Diversity & Inclusion will be involved as presenters and volunteers during this year’s annual ASHE (Association for the Study of Higher Education) virtual conference on November 18-21 and pre-conference for the Council for Ethnic Participation (CEP) on November 13. Ten of our faculty, recent graduates, and graduate students from UConn will present 12 papers and interactive symposia and serve as discussant or chair on five paper sessions and interactive symposia. You can see a full overview of UConn participation in the ASHE Conference here.  Our faculty and students will be presenting on a wide variety of research and scholarship that enhances the study of higher education within the theme of Advancing Full Participation. We asked some of our faculty and students three quick questions about the work that they will be presenting during the conference.

“Making Space for Community, Support and Healing in Racial Equity Higher Education Work”

Dr. Milagros Castillo-Montoya, Assistant Professor of Higher Education and Student Affairs.

Why did you undertake this work?

As a community of racially minoritized faculty, it is important to create space for community, support and healing. I experienced this in a profound way during a trip to the Netherlands with amazing higher education scholars who exemplified what this means and feels like. I want to share about how powerful that experience can be.

What are the important takeaways?

With a strong sense of community, racially minoritized faculty can thrive. As such, having space for this community to develop is critical to our well-being in the academy.

What do you hope practitioners can learn from this work?

I hope practitioners will learn that creating space for racially minoritized folx to connect and create community has to be more of an institutional priority.

“How Does Whiteness “Show Up” in Student Affairs Work? A Literature Analysis and Framework for Practice”

Ashley N. Robinson, PhD Candidate, Leadership and Education Policy

Why did you undertake this work?

Research shows that efforts for racial equity in higher education consistently fail because racism and white supremacy pervade higher education, a social institution built on exclusionary and racist foundations. I wanted to explore how exactly racism and white supremacy are being made real, institutionally, on a day-to-day basis? What is happening with actual texts—written policies, forms, visuals, media representations—as they land in people’s real, everyday work, that continually creates situations in which educators who really want to enact antiracist responses to racist harms end up doing things that uphold institutional racism instead?

What are the important takeaways?

I offer a framework to interrogate the tensions of responding to racist harms toward the aim of uncovering how the discourse of whiteness might show up in textually mediated ways in response work. The framework consists of nine concepts that are characteristic of the discourse of whiteness in student affairs work, offers a literature-informed description of each concept, and analytical questions that foreground the materiality of the concept related to responding to racist harms.

What do you hope practitioners can learn from this work?

In practice, I recommend using this framework to analyze texts like incident reports, incident reporting forms, protocols, procedures, policies, training materials, investigation reports, meeting notes, budget documents, and public statements. The purpose of such textual analysis is two-fold: firstly, to name and uncover the specific ways that attempts to respond to racist harms may, in fact, uphold white supremacy and institutional racism, and secondly, to empower student affairs educators at all levels to transform their approaches to responding to racist harms.

“Decolonizing Academic Spaces: Advancing Full Participation Globally to Promote Racial Equity in Postsecondary Education”

Dr. Saran Stewart, Associate Professor & Program Director of Higher Education and Student Affairs

Dr. Frank Tuitt, Professor of Higher Education and Student Affairs & Chief Diversity Officer

Saran Steward, headshot

Why did you undertake this work?

Central to our work is developing critical consciousness and to do that, we argue you must confront and disrupt the colonizers’ gaze and epistemologies.

What are the important takeaways?

  • Decolonising the mind through ways of knowing and knowledge construction;
  • Decolonising pedagogy;
  • Decolonising structures, policies and practices; and
  • Reimagining the academy from a decolonised lens. 

What do you hope practitioners can learn from this work?

We hope that the presentation will provide concrete examples to create decolonised spaces both in and out of the classroom where minoritised students can engage in learning that suggest their lives and lived experiences really matter. 

“Masculinities as Barriers to Full Participation: A Longitudinal Study on Fraternity Masculine Norms and Hazing Motivations”

Dr. Adam McCready, Assistant Professor In-Residence, Higher Education & Student Affairs

Why did you undertake this work?

Surprisingly little is known about how men are socialized to perform gender during their undergraduate experiences. Looking specifically at fraternities, fraternity leaders often claim that these organizations “make better men”, but these groups are associated with troubling outcomes like hazing.

What are the important takeaways?

While fraternity men reported statistically significantly lower conformity to misogyny after three years of fraternity membership, their conformity to eight other masculine norms and their hazing attitudes did not change significantly over this time period. Increased adherence to misogyny and risk-taking over three years predicted increased endorsement of hazing.

What do you hope practitioners can learn from this work?

Because fraternities may recruit men who share similar attitudes toward hazing and adhere to similar gender performances, practitioners may want to focus their interventions on membership recruitment efforts. In addition, interventions designed to address misogyny and risk-taking among fraternity men may also mitigate hazing attitudes.

2018 HESA Interview Days

HESA Interview Days Infographic

On February 18-19, 2018, the Higher Education & Student Affairs program held their Interview Days as the final portion of the application for the 2020 HESA cohort. 62 candidates were invited to the UConn Storrs campus, and 57 of them participated in the two-day interview process for available graduate assistantships. These candidates were selected from 245 applicants and were invited to participate for the opportunity to be placed at one of sixteen graduate assistantship sites including:

  • The College of Liberal Arts and Science Alumni Relations Office
  • The Center for Career Development
  • Careers for the Common Good hosted by the Center for Career Development and the Community Outreach Office
  • The Department of Residential Life
  • The Dean of Students’ Office
  • The Higher Education & Student Affairs (HESA) Program
  • The Office of Early College Programs
  • The Office of Global Affairs
  • The Puerto Rican & Latin American Cultural Center
  • The Rainbow Center
  • Student Activities - The Office of Fraternity & Sorority Life
  • Student Activities - The Student Union Board of Governors (SUBOG)
  • The Student Union
  • The Graduate School
  • The Women’s Center

Upon conclusion of the interviews, candidates and graduate assistantship sites submit their respective preferences and assistantships are awarded based on this mutual selection process.

Not only does the HESA Interview Days give the incoming candidates an opportunity to interview with their potential graduate assistantship but it also offers a chance for the candidates to meet the program faculty, as well as current HESA students enrolled in the program. In addition to interviewing with the assistantship sites, seven HESA faculty participated in the Interview Days and interviewed students one-on-one. In total, the two days consisted of 250 interviews, and lots of fruitful conversation.


Nix (’17) and Peralta (’17) Present at New England Latinx Student Leadership Conference


Jeronima (Niimo) Nix (HESA Class of 2017) and Yihra Peralta (HESA Class of 2017) presented at the 13th annual New England Latinx Student Leadership Conference at Hampshire College. This year’s theme for the conference was “#DecolonizeLatinx.”

Nix and Peralta’s workshop was titled, “Navigating White Spaces: Self-Care & Success.” Additional information about other presenters, presentation, and the history of the conference itself can be found at the conference’s website: http://nelslc.com/.

Thompkins (’16) and Baldassario (’16) Win NASPA Case Study Competition

Michael Thompkins Ryan Baldassario

Michael Thompkins and Ryan Baldassario, both members of the HESA Class of 2016, recently won the second-year graduate student Case Study Competition at the 2016 NASPA Annual Conference in Indianapolis, IN.

Competing against eight other teams of second-year graduate students from graduate preparation programs across the country, Michael and Ryan incorporated theory, research, national context, and practical solutions to address the various issues addressed in the case. Michael and Ryan joined the winners of the first-year case study competition to present their approach as an educational session at the NASPA Annual Conference.

Additional information about the Case Study Competition can be found on the NASPA website here: http://conference2016.naspa.org/engage/case-study-competition.

Dr. Castillo-Montoya Recognized with 2016 Emerging Scholar Award (ACPA)

MCM Award Announcement 2.23.16

Dr. Milagros Castillo Montoya, Assistant Professor of Higher Education and Student Affairs in the Department of Educational Leadership has been selected as one of five national recipients of the 2016 Emerging Scholars Award by College Student Educators, International (ACPA).

ACPA notes, “the Emerging Scholars Program supports, encourages, and honors early-career individuals who are emerging as contributors to student affairs and higher education scholarship and who are pursuing research initiatives congruent with the mission, interests, and strategic goals of ACPA.” This is one of the ACPA’s major awards and will be presented to Dr. Castillo-Montoya on March 6, 2016 at its annual convention in Montreal, Canada. The award will support Dr. Castillo-Montoya’s research on the development of inclusive practices for teaching diverse college students.

Dr. Rincón and Dr. Evanovich Awarded Provost’s Teaching Innovation Grant

Blanca 1.15.16Evanovich

Dr. Blanca Rincón and Dr. Justin Evanovich were awarded a $5,000 Provost’s Teaching Innovation Grant for the UNIV 1820 Intergroup Dialogue on Race course they will be co-developing and co-teaching this fall. The Provost’s Teaching Innovation Mini Grant Competition is designed to support faculty innovation around teaching and student learning.

While both faculty members are housed within the Department of Educational leadership, Dr. Rincón is an assistant professor for the HESA program while Dr. Evanovich is an assistant clinical professor for the Sports Management program.

Dr. Rincón Selected as a UCONN Service Learning Faculty Fellow

Blanca 1.15.16

Dr. Blanca Rincón will join nine faculty across the University of Connecticut as a 2016 Service Learning Faculty Fellow. The Service Learning Faculty Fellows program offered by the Office of Public Engagement recognizes faculty engaged in the pedagogy of service learning, a high-impact pedagogy that aims to bridge the needs of communities with active learning opportunities for students. Dr. Rincón teaches Assessment, Evaluation, and Research in Student Affairs, a service learning course where students work on a year-long assessment project for a UConn office or program (Learn more here: http://hesa.uconn.edu/edlr-5102-5103-review/), and is in the process of developing a new course for the Fall 2016 semester, Access to Higher Education.