Aislinn HeavyRunner-Rioux

I was born and raised in Montana and am a member of the Blackfeet Tribe. I now live in Missoula, MT with my husband, Ben, and two daughters, Quiana (4) and Kalani (2).  Currently I’m working on a doctorate in Educational Leadership with a focus on higher education administration.  This spring, I will be completing my coursework and taking comprehensive exams.  While maintaining a 4.0 GPA, I ‘m also the Graduate Assistant to the Dean of the Graduate School and the Indigenous Graduate Education Liaison, where I serve Native American students in their pursuits of graduate education.  I also serve as a research consultant and external evaluator for the Social Science Research Lab at The University of Montana.  In addition to my academic and employment responsibilities, I’m involved with many committees on campus serving as the student representative for The Montana Sloan Indigenous Graduate Partnership Program Advisory Committee, the Cultural Advisor for The Kyi-yo Student Association, graduate school representative for The American Indian Services and Department Committee, Native American student representative for The Native American Research Laboratory Director Search Committee, and many other committees to help Native American students, staff and faculty.  All of this experience has contributed toward my success as a Dennis and Phyllis Washington Foundation Native American Graduate Fellow, Alfred P. Sloan Foundation Scholar, Bertha Morton Scholar, American Indian Graduate Center Scholar, Native American Education Foundation Scholar, Helen Roberti Scholar, American Association of University Women Scholar, Geo Pease Native American Scholar, Edwin Boone Craighead Scholar, Hileman Family Scholar and a Stark, Kate, & Russell F. Memorial Scholar.

Prior to beginning my doctorate studies in Educational Leadership, I received a Bachelor of Arts degree, double-majoring in Forensic Anthropology and Criminology.  I graduated with honors and was recognized as a Presidential Scholar of The University of Montana.   I then continued in a Master’s of Interdisciplinary Studies program in applied statistics at The University of Montana.  My thesis focused on cultural protective factors against substance abuse of 8th, 10th and 12th grade Native American students living on and off reservations in Montana, which was published in December of 2010 in the Journal of Ethnicity in Substance Abuse.  During my master’s program, I was the Graduate Assistant for the Graduate School at The University of Montana.  I also worked with the Sloan Scholars program tutoring the other Sloan scholars in statistics and writing, developed a graduate preparatory statistics course, instructed this course and instructed a lab that paralleled the graduate statistics course offered by the math department.

The future holds much promise as I have deep roots at The University of Montana.   My connection to campus began at an early age by attending ASUM learning centers and wandering the library in the Law School as my mother studied.  My own daughters are enrolled in the same ASUM learning centers and frequent the campus with me for different activities and studies.  My mother, Bonnie HeavyRunner, is UM alumni from the Law School, the former Director of Native American Studies, and now post humus, continues her presence on campus as the rotunda of The Payne Family Native American Center, which is named in her honor as The Bonnie HeavyRunner Gathering Place. I plan to continue my mother’s legacy, serving as a Native American leader at The University of Montana with hopes of securing a future created position as the Dean of Diversity.  I want to work as a liaison and continue building upon the existing foundation for more Native Americans to pursue education with an emphasis on graduate education


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