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New Appointment Strengthens Ties with CTUIR

Whitman develops role for Native American Outreach

By Casey Brown

Jeanine Gordon, smiling, wearing a bright yellow jacket, beaded necklace and dark blue name badge.Jeanine Gordon, an enrolled member of the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation (CTUIR), is the first person to hold a newly-formed role at Whitman College: Special Assistant to the President for Native American Outreach.

“I am most excited about creating something that has not been established yet,” Gordon says.

Whitman College President Sarah Bolton says she is delighted Gordon is taking on the new role.

“Jeanine has many qualifications that support her taking on this role. She has played important professional roles at the CTUIR, and also knows Whitman College well. She has already begun great work on campus,” says Bolton.

In Agreement

In 2017, Whitman College and the CTUIR signed a document that formalized their long-standing relationship. The Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) was renewed in 2022 and focuses on efforts to enhance Native American higher education opportunities.

The MOA’s scope covers many areas, including identifying areas of mutual research, facilitating the transition of CTUIR members to college life and enhancing support to Native American students in areas such as outreach, recruitment, internships and more. It is also an important document that guides Gordon’s work.

“First and foremost is to ensure that the priorities outlined in the MOA are met,” Gordon says. 

“The role follows from the Memorandum of Agreement with the CTUIR, which was reaffirmed last spring," Bolton says. "The MOA calls for the college to establish a position which allows the college to increase efforts regarding Native American outreach, admissions, recruitment and retention, financial aid, academic advising and internships.”

Gordon will also plan events for Native American alumni and Native American Heritage Month each November. She will work closely with students and faculty as well as departments across campus, including the Offices of Admission and Financial Aid to support recruitment and scholarship efforts for the Šináata Scholarship

Adam Miller, Vice President for Admission and Financial Aid, says he looks forward to continuing and boosting Whitman's outreach with Native American students.

“The creation of the Šináata scholarship last year was an important step, and adding additional intentional outreach and support for prospective applicants will be important in moving this work forward,” he says.

Bolton says that research from students in the Indigenous People’s Education and Culture Club (IPECC) helped develop the priorities of this role. They presented to Whitman leadership in 2022 and led a panel during the 2023 Whitman Undergraduate Conference: “Towards a Native Outreach Program for Whitman College.”

“In developing the priorities for this role, we were greatly assisted by the research that students from IPECC undertook and presented to us last fall,” says Bolton.

From left to right: Jaden McGinty, Jeanine Gordon, Cheysen Cauyadao-Sipe

Student leaders. Jaden McGinty (pictured above, right with Gordon), a senior from Boise, Idaho, and Cheysen Cabuyadao-Sipe (pictured above, left), a senior from Lahaina, Hawaii, were supported by their fellow club members and funding from a Whitman College Community Engaged Learning and Research Initiative Grant.

Gordon says she is impressed by the work the students have done. McGinty and Cabuyadao-Sipe carried on work that former IPECC members began.

Traditional Life

Gordon, who grew up on the Umatilla Indian Reservation near Pendleton, Oregon, feels that her traditional Native American background will lend itself well to this position and her ongoing work at Whitman.

“My childhood and experience in our traditional cultural practices provide me with a strong, positive, hope-filled insight that fits the historical, present and future of Whitman College and the CTUIR perfectly. My ancestors are the history of this place. I am the history of this place ... so are our people of today.”

Published on Apr 27, 2023
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