One Feather Asst. Editor
Two members of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians (EBCI) have been selected to participate in the Indigenous Leadership Academy through the Arizona State University (ASU) American Indian Policy Institute. Devyn Smith and Tevis Blankenship were chosen for the Spring 2023 cohort program.
A total of 22 people, representing 15 federally recognized tribes, were selected for the 2023 cohort.
Information from the program states, “The ILA (Indigenous Leadership Academy) is the first program inclusive of Indigenous leadership principles within an idea landscape. The differentiating factor for this program is that it is not just for tribal leaders. Its for emerging Indigenous leaders in Arizona and nationally. The initial ILA program started in January 2022 with seed funding from Arizona Public Service (APS). By collaborating with APS, and various schools at ASU and professors, we were able to create a brand and curriculum that attracted emerging Indigenous and community leaders from Arizona and nationwide. This signature program is committed to building the next generation of tribal leaders.”
Smith, who has a Bachelor of Art in Political Science from the University of North Carolina Asheville, is currently the outreach counselor for Project Discovery – Talent Search at Western Carolina University. “I was surprised and grateful to hear that I had been selected. I know there are many qualified applicants across Indian Country, and I am honored to be part of the next cohort of Indigenous change-makers.”
Blankenship’s educational background includes an undergraduate diploma in Networking Technology from Haywood Community College, Associate of Applied Science in Business Administration from Haywood Community College, Bachelor of Art in Criminology & Criminal Justice from ASU, a Master in Public Safety & Administration from ASU, and in a few months, he’ll finish a Crime Analysis graduate program at ASU. In addition to serving on the board of directors for the Arizona Law Enforcement Record Managers’ Association, he is the public records supervisor for the Arizona State University Police Dept. overseeing daily operations of the Records & Evidence Bureau at all four campus locations.
“When receiving the news that I was one of only 22 people across the entire nation selected for this prestigious program, I was both humbled and honored. Being that I was once a high school dropout, I am filled with pride to see just how far I have come and to know that I am making my family, friends, and community proud.”
Both gentlemen are looking forward to working with the cohort.
Smith noted, “I hope to take everything in. The theory, practice, and connections will be crucial to whatever lies ahead for me. I work in the community now and what I hope to take away will directly affect that. I want to ensure the amazing resource of education that current tribal members enjoy, and I myself enjoyed, will be sustainable for generations to come. This has been important to me personally and professionally for years, and it’s cool to think about how I can tie my passion to this program.”
Blankenship commented, “The ILA was developed to support emerging tribal leaders in expanding their knowledge, skills, and networks to address public policy issues and engagement in the tribal government, non-profit, and private sectors. I am most looking forward to the opportunity to be among top faculty members, industry professionals, and tribal leaders and benefit from them by strengthening my skillset and applying it in my efforts to excel in the workplace and community. Being a member of this cohort is not only a great opportunity, but a major step on my ladder to success.”
Traci Morris, Ph.D., a member of the Chickasaw Nation who is the executive director for the ASU American Indian Policy Institute, said in a statement, “The cohort is an impressive group of individuals who bring a diverse wealth of knowledge and community understanding. We have a one-of-a-kind curriculum with a goal to give the participants an Indigenous framework on becoming leaders in the community.”