Scholarship Committee

Members of our Scholarship Committee donate their time and expertise to ensuring that we identify students who might have been overlooked by other programs, yet are likely to do well in college. Native American tribes are well-represented among the committee members. Many are enrolled tribal members, and all draw on their experience working with diverse populations to select and support scholarship recipients. Committee members also offer advice and guidance to our staff throughout the year.

Michael Begaye

Michael Begaye (Navajo)

Michael Begaye is the Executive Director of the American Indian Student Support Services within University College at Arizona State University. He served the Navajo Nation government in several capacities including the Director of the Navajo Nation Washington Office in Washington, D.C. He has also worked with the Navajo Area School Board Association, Inc. and Shiprock Alternative Schools, Inc. He coordinated the Native American Achievement Program at ASU for nine years. As the Coordinator of the Native American Achievement Program, Michael worked with first-time Native American freshmen, parents, ASU staff and faculty to help students be successful in their first year at ASU. He received his Bachelor of Arts degree in Secondary Education at Western New Mexico University of Silver City, New Mexico. He is from Cove, Arizona and is married to Sharon Clark-Begaye. Between them, they have five children and twelve grandchildren.

Jim Burns

Jim Burns (Northern Cheyenne Tribe)

Mr. Burns is currently employed at the Southern California Indian Center’s corporate office in Fountain Valley, California as Executive Assistant/Innovation Manager. Jim recently retired from Montana State University in Bozeman, Montana after sixteen years of service. He received his master’s degree in counseling from MSU-Bozeman and served sixteen years as Director of American Indian/ Alaska Native Student Success Services. Additionally, he was involved with recruitment and retention initiatives and partnered with all seven Montana reservations on access to higher education. He provided comprehensive programing and outreach activities to provide a pathway to success for MSU’s Native population. He has also served as both board chair and various other St. Labre committees for the past fifteen years. The St. Labre Educational Association serves more than 800 students on the Northern Cheyenne and Crow reservations in Southeastern Montana. Jim also serves on the California State University-Dominguez Hills, American Indian Institute and was recently selected to serve on the Changing Spirits Board of Directors. Changing Spirits provides culturally relevant, community-based outreach and education with evidence-based recovery programing focused on American Indians who suffer from drug and alcohol addiction and/or dependency.

JoJo Ducharme

JoAnn "JoJo" Ducharme (Salish)

JoJo returned home to the Flathead Reservation in Northwest Montana in 2013 after spending nearly 40 years living in Alaska and working with Alaska Native people in the field of Alaska Native education. Teaching has always been her passion. She taught in the Alaska Native Studies Department and the School of Education at the University of Alaska Fairbanks (UAF) for 20 years and is currently a faculty member in the Native Studies Department at Salish-Kootenai Tribal College on her reservation. She has held various administrative positions including Associate Dean of Student Services with the University of Alaska Fairbanks’ Rural College and the Director of Rural Student Services. She has served on numerous boards and committees including the Board of Directors for Salish-Kootenai College. JoJo has a B.Ed. in Secondary Education and a M.Ed. in Guidance and Counseling from UAF. Serving on the Partnership With Native Americans Scholarship Committee (Formerly the American Indian Education Foundation) for 15 years has been the highlight of her career in Native Education.

She is the proud mother of one son, Benjamin who resides in Fairbanks, AK. She was born in St. Ignatius, MT and currently lives in Ronan, MT. Her parents were Jean and Jody Ducharme. She has truly come “full-circle”.

Jolene Nelson

Jolene Nelson (Santa Clara Pueblo)

Jolene has been a Tribal Council Member since 1994 for the Pueblo of Santa Clara located in the northern valley of New Mexico. Throughout her years of service her passion has been to truly seek and do the right thing especially for children. Ms. Nelson is currently employed as the Employment & Training Director, the Higher Education Interim Director, and the Head Start Interim Director for Eight Northern Indian Pueblos Council, Inc. located at Ohkay Owingeh in Northern New Mexico.

Jolene has been an advocate to those who have faced Child Sexual Abuse within their family structure. She continues to advise individuals of options and avenues, and empowers them with their choices. She established the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act processes for her pueblo and is also a certified facilitator for Amber Alert. For eighteen years Jolene served as the Director of Education for the Pueblo of Santa Clara and was a partner in the Governor’s Taskforce for Youth and Families. Jolene brings to each Board and Committee valuable knowledge and a different prospective to compliment ideas and thoughts of others. Currently she is a member of the New Mexico Rio Arriba County DWI Council, the Espanola Valley La Vision Coalition, the New Mexico State Higher Education Commission, and the New Mexico Native American Grantee Association.

Ms. Nelson continues to progress in attaining her degree. She is still very involved with her Pueblo both in the Western and Traditional Styles.

Eileen Peacock

Eileen Peacock (Cheyenne River Sioux)

Married with four grown children, Eileen is a retired high school counselor. She worked at Cheyenne-Eagle Butte High School, Eagle Butte, South Dakota for 25 years and retired in 2015. She says “Working with native high school students was extremely rewarding for me. I learned so much from them. As I reflect back on my 25 years of service to high school students, I am filled with so much gratitude and compassion for the impact they made on my life. I know I made a difference in the lives and choices of my students and, in particular, their post-secondary endeavors. I shall always treasure those memories. I am very blessed to have chosen to work in the school system on my home reservation.” Eileen earned her B.S. in Psychology from the University of South Dakota in Vermillion, SD in 1980 and her M.S. degree in Guidance & Counseling from Northern State University in Aberdeen, SD in 1990. Currently, she is enjoying retirement and Netflix.

Bob Sobotta

Bob Sobotta, Jr. (Nez Perce)

A lifelong resident of Lapwai, Idaho, Bob is the Director of Native American/Minority & Veterans Student Services at Lewis-Clark State College in Lewiston, Idaho. He has been involved in education the past twenty-eight years and has been employed with LCSC since 1992. Bob received his bachelor’s degree in Social Science-Secondary Education from LCSC (1989), and a master’s degree in Education Administration from the University of Idaho (1996). Working at LCSC, Bob has been a leader and advocate of multicultural education focusing on recruitment, retention, outreach and cultural awareness programming. Along with a variety of campus committees, Bob currently serves as Chair of the State Board of Education’s Idaho Indian Education Committee and also serves on the Native American Inter-Institutional Collaborations Committee (WSU, UI, LCSC, NIC & NWIC). Bob is also the Head Boys Basketball Coach at Lapwai High School which won the 2017 Idaho Boys State 1A Championship. Bob is married to wife Angel, and together they have four children: Payton (16), Glory (14), Grace (13) and Faith (10).

Patrick Weasel Head

Patrick Weasel Head (Blackfeet, Gros Ventre and Assinaboine)

Patrick is currently retired and enjoying community service of volunteering for the Missoula Meals on Wheels program. He was the past Director of the Office of American Indian Student Services with the goal of developing a comprehensive approach to supporting American Indian students as they enter the university system retired in July 2007 with a post retirement effort with the University of Montana School of Education and Graduate School, to assist in recruiting and retaining indigenous students in the teaching profession as well as graduate students in science fields.

With over 20 years of educational experience in “Indian Country” and a strong proponent of educational attainment, Dr. Weasel Head continues to push the agenda for educational opportunities. With a doctorate in Higher Education Administration from the University of Oregon, Eugene and a Masters in Guidance and Counseling and, Bachelors in Business Administration from the University of Montana, Patrick is a well-rounded individual in many arenas.

Patrick has experience in being a Tribal College Dean, a K-12 school teacher/counselor, a program evaluator, a proposal review member for NASA, NSF, NIH, DoE, and private foundations. He has extensive experience in public speaking, grant writing, program management, and promotion of mathematics, science and technology opportunities. He has worked on multi-state collaborations, multi-cultural programs, and community based efforts. He served on Missoula City Council for 11 months filling in a vacant term and most recently, named the 2016 Jeannette Rankin Peace Center Peacemaker of the year.

He has served, at the request of the president to be the University, as Liaison for the College is Possible effort of the American Council of Education. He is also one of the founders of the American Indian Alumni Group, a service component for UM Indian Alumni. Patrick has a varied racial composition, as he is a descendent of three tribal groups: Blackfeet, Gros Ventre, and Assinaboine. He is also of four European groups: Norwegian, English, Irish and French.

Catherine N. Montoya

Catherine N. Montoya (Navajo)

Catherine is from Tse’Da Tah Canyon near Lupton, Arizona on the Navajo Nation. She earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Native American Studies from Dartmouth and a Master of Public Administration degree from the University of New Mexico. She recently became a doctoral student in the Educational Leadership program at the University of New Mexico and is a part of the inaugural Native American Leadership in Education cohort.

Catherine has worked in higher education since 2004, first at the University of Notre Dame in the Financial Aid Office, then later began working at the Student Financial Aid Office at the University of New Mexico in 2007. Before she left financial aid, she was one of the Tribal Liaisons, where she often assisted Native students with their financial aid and scholarships and worked very closely with the various tribal higher education offices. She moved to a student services department to continue working for Native students in her position at American Indian Student Services in 2009. During her seven years with AISS, she led various program initiatives that promoted student success such as the American Indian Summer Bridge (AISB) program, the Miss Indian UNM program, the FAFSA Fridays program, American Indian Junior Day, and the American Indian Graduation events. As one of the department’s main advisors, she worked closely with Native students and assisted students with financial aid, scholarship, and academic programs. She also would connect students to various resources on campus to further support their academic endeavors. More recently in 2016, Catherine became an academic advisor working for the Native American Studies department at UNM. In this new role, she works closely with the NAS majors and minors as well as with the NAS faculty.

Catherine’s purpose as an educator working in higher education has always been to better prepare more Native students and to help them succeed at the University. Her identity as a Din woman provides her guidance, purpose, strength, and resilience to improve education for all Native students. As a mother, she recognizes the importance of making improvements in education for the betterment of Native nations as a whole.

As an Indigenous leader, she believes in the value of hzh, respect, k’, and community as taught to her by her grandparents, parents, and relatives. She says, “I relate the value of hzh to all aspects of my life in thinking about how to maintain or restore balance. I believe in having good well-being, thinking peacefully, and providing reciprocity. I believe everyone and everything has a purpose, therefore I respect everyone and everything around me and will take into account other people’s perspectives and values.” Catherine values k’, which is kinship, and believes in having comradery, being inclusive, transparent, and in providing care for others. She also values community, creating solidarity, a sense of belonging, providing goodwill, kindness, and being helpful. She says, “Through these values, as an Indigenous leader, I can provide compassion, respect, service, responsibility, and positivity.” Catherine wants to see Native students succeed in obtaining their higher education degrees and for them to feel supported and guided. She says, “I work using the values of hzh, respect, k’, and community to provide a positive future for our Native students at the University.”

   AIEF Committee Group Photo
  Our Scholarship Committee members volunteer their time to help
Native American students attain the dream of higher education.
Not pictured: Catherine N. Montoya