Developing and empowering strong, competent future leaders is the ongoing mission of the Buder Center. To that end, the Brown School and the Buder Center have worked to provide a wide range of opportunities for students to hone their leadership skills. This year, while many events were strategically planned, others became “teachable moments” as they developed in light of current political and social circumstances. The annual Pow Wow, for example, takes almost a full year to plan and implement, and this year was no different. The focus on youth and family this year developed into Honoring Our Ancestors’ Sacrifice: Empowering Children Today to be Leaders of Tomorrow. The Pow Wow provides vast hands-on leadership experiences and training for Buder students every year. This year, however, political and social situations caused students to spontaneously take on leadership roles and urgently put into action their prescribed theories and beliefs. This was the case when the Sioux Nation took a stand against the Dakota Access pipeline. Buder students and others felt so passionate about this issue that they travelled to North Dakota to join in the protest. Out of this experience came an important teaching opportunity in the form of the Indigenous Rights and Environmental Justice Symposium: From Standing Rock to St. Louis, held here on campus to explain and explore the impact of potential pipeline leaks on St. Louis, as well as other environmental and public health issues that needed to be addressed.
The empowerment of AI/AN student leaders and the recognition of leadership among our own has taken many forms this year. We tirelessly work to enhance leadership opportunities for these students. The 2016-17 school year saw an increase in practical leadership participation as we collaborated with thirteen new field education sites in nine states and Washington D.C. Our alumni continue to take on responsibilities of influence, with many of them working to improve AI/AN health and welfare issues. We are so pleased to have 2010 MSW alumna Kellie Thompson return to the Buder Center to share her leadership skills as Assistant Director.
Recognition of leadership came to the American Indian Student Association (AISA), who won the WUSTL Liberman Leadership Award for Excellence in Sustainability. The selection committee was most impressed by the group's efforts to create awareness around the No Dakota Access Pipeline Movement, including the NoDAPL Gallery and the Indigenous Rights and Environmental Justice Symposium, as well as other programs such as the seminar on Engaging Community: Empowering Health through Indigenous Foods. In addition, Buder Center Program Coordinator Lynn Mitchell was a recipient of the Outstanding Faculty and Staff Award in recognition of those who have exemplified support for graduate students and Kellie Thompson received the outstanding staff award at the Brown School for being a valuable support to the school.
We at the Buder Center realize that our influence on our future leaders is brief—maybe just one or two years-- but in that time we have worked to provide a far-reaching, long-term influence through theory and practice that we are certain will sustain these students and guide them to greatness.