UNR’s Native American Alumni Chapter named alumni chapter of the year
First Nation's Focus
For the past five years, the University of Nevada, Reno Native American Alumni Chapter has been working especially hard to strengthen its relationships with Native students, past and present, and the Native community as a whole.
And their hard work is being noticed more than ever.
In fact, next month, the UNR Native American Alumni Chapter will receive the Nevada Alumni Association’s Chapter of the Year Award. The chapter will be given the honor at UNR’s Homecoming Gala on Sept. 27. Its members will also be recognized on Sept. 28 during the Nevada football team’s homecoming game against Hawaii.
The honor will be the first time the UNR Native American Alumni Chapter, which was established in early 1990, has won the chapter of the year award, according to its current members.
“It was exciting to be recognized both by the university, and to showcase what we do for our communities and for the university,” said Kathleen Wright-Bryan, treasurer of the chapter.
A major piece of the UNR Native American Alumni Chapter’s impact comes in the form of events it puts on for the community. The events are aimed at sharing the American Indian culture and heritage on the University campus through traditional events and athletic activities.
This includes the chapter’s biggest event: the Mr. & Miss University of Nevada, Reno Powwow. The annual event, which will be held at 11 a.m. on Aug. 24 at UNR’s Knowledge Center Lawn, is for children ages 3-18, said chapter president Stephanie Wyatt, noting that they spend “all year” planning the event. Prior to the powwow is a pageant on Aug. 23 at 5:30 p.m. at the UNR Davidson Mathematics Science Center.
“The focus of that is to bring youth on campus,” Wyatt said “We want them to be involved and continue their (Native) education; to come to campus with their families and experience interactions, whether it’s a sporting event or with students, faculty and staff.”
Wyatt added that the university’s Native American Student Organization, The Center, and Residential Life, Housing and Food Service are event partners of the powwow.
Another sizable event the group co-sponsors with The Center is a graduation celebration in the spring. Specifically, the event recognizes Native American and Alaska Native students who have graduated in the spring or the previous fall.
“Every year that increases in attendance,” Wright-Bryan said. “We just want a Native American presence on campus, and I feel that a lot of our events give the university that.”
Notably, the group provides two scholarships per year worth $1,000 to Native students — one designated for an incoming freshman and the other for a transfer or returning student. Two years ago, through increased fundraising efforts, the chapter was able to raise the scholarships by $500 per student. Wyatt said one goal the chapter has for the future is to provide at least one more scholarship to a Native student.
Wright-Bryan also pointed out that the chapter even held a Native American Recognition Day during the last two Nevada softball seasons to recognize pitcher Kali Sargent of the Washoe Tribe. Sargent capped her Wolf Pack career in May.
In addition, the chapter holds does everything from holding networking events for alumni to hosting holiday parties to attending Wolf Pack football games together. The group even holds “mystery bus trips” — a chartered bus shuttles chapter members and their friends to designated Northern Nevada spots for dinner and drinks.
“I think that one of the main reasons why our group is really active is because we want to stay connected to the university after we graduated,” Wright-Bryan said.
Such was the case for Alicia Reyes, a 2018 graduate who has been a member of the UNR Native American Alumni Chapter for roughly a year. A member of the Native American Student Organization as an undergrad, Reyes saw firsthand how deeply involved the alumni chapter is in the Native community on- and off-campus.
Simply put, Reyes wanted to remain woven in the UNR Native fabric. A fabric that, thanks to the alumni chapter of the year, seems to be growing stronger each year.
“It was another group that I always felt involved with,” Reyes said of the UNR Native American Alumni Chapter. “I wanted to make sure I stayed involved with the university and help bring that cultural awareness.” O