High Desert Home
I grew up in a tiny town in Central Oregon, with a class of 13 other students and 3 miles of sagebrush between my house and our closest neighbors. Ever since I was little, I have absolutely loved to sing. While the other kids my age were singing "The Wheels on the Bus" and their ABCs on road trips, I was belting out Phantom of the Opera and Les Miserables show tunes and asking my mom to teach me "how to make my voice hum like Whitney Houston's" (I later learned this is called vibrato). In my small town, I quickly became the go-to National Anthem singer. My dad made me keep a tally of all the times I sang the "Star Spangled Banner" in front of an audience and at last count the total was 117! Thankfully, I never forgot the words!
I am also incredibly passionate about social justice and issues facing indigenous people. A member of the Navajo Nation myself, I have always known that I wanted to have a job that would allow me to give back to and help other Native people. I collect books and literature on social justice issues, and actually find that I love having difficult conversations about social justice that allow people who may have never thought about these issues before to learn something!
Forging a Path
I chose BioResource Research (BRR) because it was so unique. I knew I wanted to continue being involved with agriculture (I was in FFA throughout high school), but I also knew that I wanted to highlight how much more there was to ag than cows and plows. BRR provided me with a way to "build" my own major that satisfied my desire to learn about agriculture, biological sciences, and social justice and bring them together in an innovative way that would allow me to give back to my indigenous community. It was my background in agriculture that not only helped me learn about dose-response and biochemical pathways of metabolism, but also taught me research skills and how to motivate and direct myself in my own projects, all valuable information and skills that will help me better succeed. It is through my agricultural background that I learned to ask questions, to continually seek for answers, to work hard, and to never give up. Through my education in FFA and the College of Agricultural Sciences, I have learned to be a great public speaker, to continually push myself to give back to my community, and to always value the expertise and dedicated work of others, no matter how “prestigious” their field may be to the outside world. The unique education I was able to receive by building my own BRR program of study will allow me to apply my knowledge to a career in pharmacy, helping medically underserved populations in indigenous communities find a way to care for themselves holistically, through Western medicine in combination with traditional medicine.
Part of a Whole
The best part of being in the College of Agricultural Sciences, in my opinion, is the opportunities for experiential learning. Through my program, specifically through talking to my advisor in the College, I was able to go on a study abroad in London, England, as well as help plan a service learning trip to Puerto Rico, specifically to learn about tropical agriculture and the impacts of recent hurricanes have had on it. We also helped a middle school ag program rebuild at a school that was hit quite hard by the hurricanes. These experiences really reminded me that the world is so much bigger than we sometimes feel like it is when we're wrapped up in our own struggles. It took my education outside the classroom and into a real world situation. My BRR focus was toxicology, and I had the opportunity to do actual water quality tests and teach school children about toxicology on our service trip to Puerto Rico. You may not always remember a lecture you sat through in college, but you'll always remember the chances you had to actually act on what you learned and apply it!
Honestly, one of the biggest challenges I faced during undergrad was trying to finish in the face of constant homophobia, racism and sexism, some of it even from people within the College of Agricultural Sciences. Unfortunately, we live in a world where it's almost impossible to get away from this right now, no matter what program you're a part of. But I found mentors that I could trust and a community that I could talk to about social justice issues. I found my voice. It was really scary and difficult at times, but I learned how to talk to other people about issues of race and gender and had a lot of educational conversations about them. I also found ways to work through my clubs and organizations to plan educational events to help others learn about the issues some people face in agricultural career fields. Just because the world is a certain way now, that doesn't mean we can't keep doing everything in our power to change it and make it better! Now, not only am I going to finish undergrad, I am going to go to 4 more years of graduate school!
Face The Fear
Don't be afraid to jump into things that interest you, even if you know nothing about them or think you're not welcome. I have had some of my best experiences the past few years in places I never expected to find myself on campus, as well as in places I was afraid to enter. I thought I would be unwelcome at the Native American Longhouse, for example, because I lacked a connection with my reservation community, but now it is a second home to me. I was scared to help plan a service trip to Puerto Rico because I didn't know any Spanish, but helping out with it was an amazing experience! It can be scary to dive in headfirst, but sometimes, that's how you find the coolest and most meaningful experiences and opportunities! Joining a sorority, going on a study abroad, applying for graduate school...all those things were terrifying but now I am so glad that I did them!
The Final Word
The College of Ag Sciences has so much to offer students, no matter what you are interested in pursuing as a career. An ag degree is not the traditional path to pharmacy school, but I feel that my education, both in and out of the classroom, has truly prepared me for whatever grad school and life throw my way!
For more from Raven on Native/Indigenous fashion, check out her article from Dam Chic, OSU's student fashion publication.