By Brian Powell
Shelly Lowe, a Flinn Scholar alum and advocate for Native American students and culture on college campuses, has been appointed by the president to a national board that promotes the humanities.
Lowe will join the National Council on the Humanities, a 26-member board that meets in Washington D.C. three times a year to make recommendations to the National Endowment for the Humanities. NEH is an independent federal agency that awards grants to cultural institutions.
President Barack Obama nominated Lowe and two others in the spring of 2015. They were confirmed by the U.S. Senate in November.
Lowe is a Class of 1992 Flinn Scholar who graduated from Ganado High School in Ganado on the Navajo Nation before majoring in sociology at the University of Arizona.
“The Flinn Foundation, with its summer funding, really spurred my work with Native higher-education issues as it allowed me to attend multiple meetings … in tribal communities across the country,” Lowe said. “I was able to learn about issues facing Native students in colleges and universities and then help create an agenda to address those issues, which I continue to work towards today.”
Lowe said while she had a hard time adjusting to the large university environment, she always felt at home at the University of Arizona Honors College and with the Flinn Scholars.
“(Former Flinn Scholars Program director) Barbra Barnes was a constant contact and the opportunities provided by the Flinn Foundation were tremendous to my college experience,” Lowe said.
Since 2009, Lowe has been the executive director of the Harvard University Native American Program, where she oversees programs and services that help Native American students while also promoting Native American culture on the campus.
“Contributing to the success of Native students and seeing what they accomplish is what inspires me,” Lowe said.
She previously was the assistant dean for Native American affairs and director of the Native American Cultural Center at Yale University. She spent six years as the graduate education program facilitator for American Indian studies at the University of Arizona before being hired by Yale.
While at UA, she was actively involved in the Native American Student Affairs Office and the American Indian Alumni club. She earned a master’s degree in American Indian Studies from UA, and is a doctoral candidate at UA in the Center for the Study of Higher Education, where she plans to graduate next year with a degree in higher education.
Lowe told the National Endowment for the Humanities that she was “honored to join the National Council on the Humanities in their work to support, award, and share the cultural heritage of our diverse communities and to further promote America’s rich traditions, history, and cultures.
“To me,” Lowe said, “humanities is about place and time. It’s the essence of a city and its people. It’s the feel of the land and the people who move through it daily. It’s the beauty of community and the energy encompassed within it. It’s a piece of time that is captured, shared, and then forever ongoing through memory, story, and learning. Humanities is what we see, smell, hear, and feel when we engage with the diversity of our country.”