Nicole Alia Salis Reyes, College of Education Department of Educational Administration (EDEA) Assistant Professor, has been selected for the 2016 Association for the Study of Higher Education (ASHE) Bobby Wright Dissertation of the Year award. She was recognized and presented her work, “What Am I Doing to Be a Good Ancestor?” An Indigenized Phenomenology of Giving Back among Native College Graduates, at the ASHE Annual Conference in Columbus, Ohio.
EDEA Chair Stacey Roberts said, “The department is very proud of our newest faculty member’s accomplishment. We believe both the substance and quality of her research is outstanding, and we are confident that her work will be of great value to our students, the college, and the university now and in the future.”
Nominated by her University of Texas at San Antonio dissertation chair, Dr. Laura Rendon, Salis Reyes is the first indigenous scholar and the first scholar from a minority serving institute to have won the award, named in memory of Irvin Lee “Bobby” Wright. An indigenous scholar himself, Wright was an assistant professor at the Pennsylvania State University College of Education and a research associate in the Centre for the Study of Higher Education.
In her dissertation, Salis Reyes explores how Native – Native Hawaiian, Native American, and Alaska Native – college graduates came to value and make meaning of giving back to their communities. Participants in the study utilized the knowledge and social networks that they had built through their postsecondary journeys to benefit their home communities and Native peoples more broadly. Salis Reyes explained that, while they gave back in a myriad of ways, they seemed to be driven by their senses of relationality and responsibility to others and by their interests in seeing Native nations thrive on their own terms.
“This research does not just belong to me, but it belongs to my family and to the communities to which I belong,” said Salis Reyes. “My goal has always been to contribute to the making of better, more empowering experiences for Native peoples in higher education. To accomplish this goal, I must ensure that Native voices and stories of strength are heard in the academy. I believe that the recognition from this ASHE award is helping me to do this work.”