DOCTORAL CANDIDATE IN ALASKA NATIVE STUDIES WINS JUDSON BROWN SCHOLARSHIP
Program honors students with academic achievement, leadership skills
July 2, 2021
The scholarship was given to Tlingit Eldri Waid Westmoreland, who holds a master’s degree in mathematics education and is pursuing her doctorate in American Indian and Alaska Native studies at the University of Alaska Fairbanks.
The $5,000 awards go to students who have demonstrated academic achievement and leadership skills, said SHI President Rosita Worl.
“Eldri stood out as a top candidate because of the multiple leadership positions she has held and her passion for weaving Native cultures into classrooms. She, and others like her, are forging the path toward incorporating the Native world view into schools for the benefit of all students,” Worl said.
Five years ago, Westmoreland was teaching in the Juneau School District and serving on multiple committees, including panels on Alaska Native curriculum and teacher evaluations. Over the years, she continued to observe a strong disconnect between classroom instruction and student experiences outside of the classroom. That led her to pursue her master’s degree in mathematics education.
“Through that journey, I began to address the question asked by students and families over my two decades in education: ‘Why do I need to learn this math? I don’t use it in my daily life!’” she wrote.
She earned her master’s degree in ten months and led research on connections between mathematics instruction, real-life experiences and quality children’s literature.
“I discovered that students increased their joy and confidence in math when it connected to their stories,” Westmoreland wrote. “I embrace our Tlingit value of Haa Shuka’ by learning from the wisdom of our ancestors in my education and research today in order to continue our ways of knowing for future generations.”
Chris and Mary McNeil established the scholarship fund in 2006 in honor of Chris’ uncle, Tlingit leader Judson Lawrence Brown, who was the first Chair of the Sealaska Heritage Foundation, now known as the Sealaska Heritage Institute, and a forceful advocate for education and leadership development. The endowment is administered by Sealaska Heritage Institute.
Sealaska Heritage Institute is a private nonprofit founded in 1980 to perpetuate and enhance Tlingit, Haida and Tsimshian cultures of Southeast Alaska. Its goal is to promote cultural diversity and cross-cultural understanding through public services and events. SHI also conducts social scientific and public policy research that promotes Alaska Native arts, cultures, history and education statewide. The institute is governed by a Board of Trustees and guided by a Council of Traditional Scholars, a Native Artist Committee and a Southeast Regional Language Committee.
Caption: Photo courtesy of Eldri Waid Westmoreland (pictured).