Dr. Joely Proudfit, Department Chair of American Indian Studies at CSUSM, has been appointed by President Barack Obama to the National Advisory Council on Indian Education.
The council advises the president himself on American Indian education issues and policies in schools throughout the nation.
Each person appointed to the advisory council has an expertise in the field and is able to use that expertise to inform the president about what changes should be made in schools from the kindergarten level to the university level.
Proudfit, who personally identifies with the Pechanga Band of Luiseno Indians, said “We’re there to assist the president and his cabinet on implementing and supporting programs that support American Indian education.”
Proudfit began her role as an advisor and advocate for American Indian cultural awareness and education at San Francisco State University as Chair of American Indian Studies. She was also a tenured professor at Cal State San Bernardino before coming to CSUSM in 2008 to become the department chair for American Indian Studies.
“This is my homeland… that’s why I’ve always wanted to come here. It’s like coming home,” said Proudfit.
After 20-plus years of work and innovation in American Indian education, more than 20 tribes, along with congressional leaders, nominated Proudfit to serve on the National Advisory Council.
Proudfit also acknowledged the work done at CSUSM and its unique location in proximity to numerous tribes as factors that contributed to her nomination.
“We have the largest American Indian student population per capita of any public [or private] institution in the state, and that’s been done really in the last decade,” said Proudfit. “We [also] produce an annual state of American Indian education report for the state of California.”
This report allows institutions across the state to provide insight to the state of American Indian students in schools, their access to education and their cultural inclusion in academics.
“I’m hoping to really provide some advocacy to see that every other state produces a state of American Indian education report…so we can see the benchmark and see what’s working and what’s not,” Proudfit said.
While in her role on the National Advisory Council, Proudfit also wants to address a number of issues.
“I want to bring attention to the harmful effects of Indian mascots in our public school system,” she said. “I would also like to provide more resources [and] funding for supporting our American Indian students… and programs, curricular needs and language preservation.”
Proudfit said that she hopes to increase awareness for the necessary innovations in American Indian education to add to the extensive work the National Advisory Council has already set in motion.
“They have listening sessions so they can hear from members of tribal communities to find out what are some of the issues that are important to them… and that advisory brings to the forefront some of the issues that are happening in Indian country,” she said.
The date of Proudfit being officially sworn in as a member of the National Advisory Council is not yet known, but she said she looks forward to working with President Obama and his administration to bring to light the issues that face American Indian students across the nation.