Research and Programs

Meet The Research and Sponsored Programs Team

David Sanders

David Sanders is the Research Director and Co-Director of the Office of Research and Sponsored Programs.at the American Indian College Fund, the nation’s largest charity supporting Native higher education. An enrolled member of the Oglala Sioux Tribe, Sanders was born in Pine Ridge, South Dakota and grew up in the rural Oglala community on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. He oversees all aspects of research for ORSP including the development of both ORSP’s research agenda and sponsored program lines of inquiry.  He assists and guides the American Indian College Fund’s use of research and data.

Sanders has led the development of database infrastructure surrounding American Indian College Fund Scholarship recipient graduation and retention data. He collaborates with tribal colleges and universities (TCUs) to assist in building their capacity for data collection and reporting. He develops research that effectively highlights the incredible work occurring at TCUs.

His career is situated in Indian education. He taught secondary mathematics at Chinle High School in Chinle, Arizona on the Navajo Nation. He also led the University of Colorado (CU) Upward Bound Program, first as the academic coordinator then as the Director. The CU-Upward Bound Program worked with low-income, first-generation high school students from 21 tribal communities across an eight-state region.

Sanders earned his bachelor’s degree in mathematics from the University of Colorado at Boulder. He also received a secondary mathematics teacher certificate, a master’s degree and a Ph.D. in Instruction and Curriculum in Mathematics Education from CU-Boulder. His graduate work focused on the impact of self-determination policy on the teaching and learning of mathematics in a Lakota K-8 school.

Tarajean Yazzie-Mintz

Tarajean Yazzie-Mintz, Ed.D. is an enrolled member of the Navajo Nation and the Co-Director of the Office of Research and Sponsored Programs and Senior Program Officer for early childhood education initiatives at the American Indian College Fund. She has devoted her career to improving access to early education for American Indian and Alaska Native children.

Yazzie-Mintz has dedicated her expertise to work with tribal colleges and universities by developing early childhood programs and early learning centers at the College Fund. She is helping to develop curriculum based on each community’s unique language, culture, and educational practices.

Yazzie-Mintz began her career in education as an early childhood teacher in Seattle, Washington, and continued to contribute to the field of early childhood education throughout her graduate studies at Arizona State University and Harvard University Graduate School of Education. After earning her doctorate degree from the Harvard, she spent two years working in the Boston Public Schools before becoming an assistant professor in curriculum and instruction as a faculty member at the School of Education at Indiana University – Bloomington. There she worked with the Cherokee Nation in Oklahoma and as an Assistant Professor of curriculum studies she taught in the teacher education program and conducted research in the area of Native teacher knowledge and instructional practice.

Yazzie-Mintz has been the recipient of numerous professional awards and honors; competitive grants and fellowships; has presented at numerous scholarly meetings and symposia across the country; and has published in numerous scholarly publications focusing on education. She was named the 2016 recipient of Harvard Graduate School of Education’s Alumni Council Award for Outstanding Contribution. Most recently she was appointed by President Obama in January 2017 to the Board of Directors at the National Board for Education Sciences.

Bridget SkinadoreBridget Skenadore

Bridget Skenadore, M.A. (Navajo/Dine) is the Native Arts and Culture Project Coordinator for the Restoration and Preservation of Traditional Native Arts and Knowledge Grant and has been overseeing the grant since the implementation in 2013. Bridget initially worked at the College Fund in its Student Success Services team beginning in 2007. She left in 2010 to complete a master’s degree in art and design education at the Rhode Island School of Design and graduated in 2012. She also holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts Degree from Fort Lewis College with a minor art history.

With a background in the arts, Bridget has had the opportunity to work for various cultural institutions such as the Peabody Essex Museum (Salem, Massachusetts), the Denver Art Museum (Denver, Colorado) and the Clyfford Still Museum (Denver, Colorado) and has focused her work on family and multicultural engagement and interaction in a museum and community arts setting.

In her past job capacity she has worked as a museum educator, Native American museum fellow, program facilitator and lead artist. In her spare time she works in various mediums including watercolor painting, charcoal drawing, and photography. Bridget has shown her work in Providence, Rhode Island, Durango, Colorado, Denver, Colorado, and Phoenix, Arizona.

Cassandra HardenCassandra Harden

Cassandra Harden is the TCU Early Childhood Education Initiatives Program Assistant for the early childhood education initiatives at the American Indian College Fund. Cassandra is an enrolled member of the Navajo Nation who was born in Shiprock, New Mexico and raised in a small community of Farmington, New Mexico. She earned an Associate of Arts degree in early childhood education in 2015 at Southwestern Indian Polytechnic Institute (SIPI) in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Previous to joining the College Fund, Cassandra successfully completed an internship at SIPI as the 2014-2015 early childhood education student intern for the Wakanyeja “Sacred Little Ones” Early Childhood Education Initiative and the Ké’ Early Childhood Education Family Engagement Initiative, focused on empowering and engaging SIPI TCU students, staff, families, and children to become more involved in the SIPI community. Cassandra assisted in coordinating culturally responsive events and partnering with the on-site YDI Early Childhood Learning Center and local community networks. Cassandra also completed a TCU Research Internship in the summer of 2015 for the American Indian College Fund’s Office of Research and Sponsored Programs.

During her internships Cassandra presented at four national conferences in Wyoming, New Mexico, and Illinois. In 2016, she utilized her degree and internship qualifications to gain field experience as a preschool teacher assistant at Busy Little Hands Early Learning Center.

Cassandra continues to enjoy dedicating her time and providing administrative program support for the American Indian College Fund’s TCU ECE Initiatives.

Crystal LoudHawk-Hedgepeth

Crystal LoudHawk-Hedgepeth, M.Ed, MSCS, is from Sanostee, New Mexico and is an enrolled member of the Navajo Nation. As a Research Associate, Crystal works with staff in the Office of Research and Sponsored programs (ORSP) to execute the College Fund’s systematic research initiatives which includes providing guidance on the College Fund’s research agenda, expanding ORSP’s framework by enhancing student success at Tribal Colleges and Universities (TCUs); providing qualitative and quantitative information and reports for College Fund staff; and partnering organizations, funders, and other groups.

Prior to joining the College Fund, Crystal worked as a Senior Research Assistant at the Centers for American Indian and Alaska Native Health (CAIANH) and Colorado Clinical and Translational Sciences Institute (CCTSI) where she helped address a wide range of issues, such as tobacco, colon cancer prevention, diabetes, school readiness, and community-academic partnerships. Her past projects focused on cardiovascular disease/diabetes risk reduction interventions; supporting relationships between community-academic investigators to reduce health disparities in Colorado; and assisting in the implementation and dissemination of information among Native American Veterans in the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

Crystal earned a bachelor degree in sociology, graduating magna cum laude from the University of Colorado-Denver, where she found her passion to do research. Crystal continued her education by earning a master’s degree from Pennsylvania State University in health education and a second master degree from the University of Colorado-Anschutz Medical Campus in Clinical Science.

Crystal is a former Denver American Indian Commissioner and currently serves on the boards of the Colorado American Indian Research Council (CAIRC), Denver Indian Health and Family Services (DIHFS), and the University of Colorado-Denver Ethnic Studies Program. Crystal enjoys playing volleyball, keeping up with her three-year-old son, and spending time with family and friends.

Crystal is thankful to be doing what she loves and would like to extend her gratitude to organizations like the College Fund that bring awareness, support, and access to Native communities.

Emily White Hat

Emily R. White Hat

Emily R. White Hat, J.D. (Nape Waste Win, “Good Hand Woman”) Sicangu (Rosebud) Lakota, of the Aske Gluwipi Tiospaye was born and raised on the Rosebud Reservation in South Dakota.

Emily is the Native Arts and Energy Project Manager at the American Indian College Fund where she works with tribal colleges and universities to develop and implement traditional Native arts infrastructure and energy/water efficiency infrastructure projects. Emily is also leading the Tribal College Workforce Opportunities Phase 1, Research and Planning grant, conducting research to establish the landscape of workforce development opportunities and create a transformative and feasible framework for future workforce opportunity programming at Tribal Colleges and Universities (TCUs).

Prior to joining the College Fund, Emily worked as a project evaluator at Sanford Research/Health in Sioux Falls, South Dakota in the Center for Health Outcomes and Prevention Research using a developmental evaluation approach on a trans-disciplinary research project. Emily also worked as program manager at the National Congress of American Indians Policy Research Center in Washington, D.C. where she managed and conducted research on a Native American Research Centers for Health (NARCH)-funded project and in the areas of public health, public health law, and veterans’ issues. She is also an expert panel member for the University of Washington Indigenous Wellness Research Center ETHICS research project focused on increasing American Indian/Alaska Native research engagement through a culturally adapted ethics training.

Emily received her Juris Doctorate degree and a Natural Resources Law certificate from the University of New Mexico School of Law, where she received Clinical Honors for Outstanding Performance in the Law Clinic. She has a Bachelor’s of Science degree in forestry with a concentration in Fire Science and a minor in Rangeland Ecology from Colorado State University, and an Associate of Arts degree in Lakota history and culture from Sinte Gleska University. Her experience as a former firefighter, EMT, policy researcher, evaluator, and legal background have all been vital to her work in program development and implementation, strategic planning, qualitative research, writing, curriculum implementation, and evaluation with tribal nations and colleges and using a capacity-building approach. Emily enjoys quilting, beading, horseback riding, and hot yoga.

Kendra Teague

Kendra Teague

Kendra Teague currently serves as the American Indian College Fund’s Building Sustainability Pathways (BSP) Program Administrator. Kendra received a bachelor’s degree in sustainable agriculture and bioenergy systems from Montana State University (MSU) – Bozeman in May 2016. Prior to attending MSU, Kendra attended the Fort Peck Community College on the Fort Peck Reservation in Montana, and she understands the challenges and opportunities that exist at tribal colleges and universities (TCUs).

While attending MSU, Kendra served as the Program Coordinator for the Native and Minority STEM Peer Mentoring Program, in which she worked to support the successes and mentorship of Native students in STEM fields. Kendra was a McNair scholar and worked with Dr. Alison Harmon on a research project titled Indigenous Food Systems: Grains, Global Perspectives and Health Outcomes. Her research focused on understanding Indigenous approaches to life cycles and cultivation techniques in agriculture, and more specifically maize and wild rice. A component of this work was the study of rapid changes in agriculture, diet and culture, which have impacted ecosystems and Native communities. Kendra is passionate about serving as an advocate and working to enhancing the health and sustainability of environments, food systems, families and Native communities.

Ms. Teague is responsible for oversight of the BSP grants and works to provide targeted technical assistance to support TCU grant implementation success. She will also be responsible for guiding implementation across TCU sites, managing data collection on programming for impact, and developing responsive program improvements to reach the College Fund’s goal of contributing to environmental sustainability and related fields.

Natalie Youngbull

Natalie Youngbull

Natalie Rose Youngbull is enrolled in the Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes of Oklahoma and descended from the Ft. Peck Assiniboine and Sioux tribes of Montana.  She grew up in El Reno, Oklahoma and returns as often as she can to visit family and friends.

Natalie earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology from the University of Oklahoma. She continued her education at the University of Arizona earning her master’s degree in higher education and a Ph.D. in the Educational Policy Studies and Practice Department with an emphasis in higher education.  Her dissertation research explored the experiences of 20 American Indian Gates Millennium Scholars who did not persist to graduation with the scholarship funding.

Natalie serves as the Faculty Development Program Officer where she administers fellowships to assist Tribal College/University (TCU) faculty in the completion of their master and doctorate degrees, plans the annual TCU Faculty Research Convening, and oversees the annual publication of the TCU Research Journal.

Previously she served as the Director of Student Services at Comanche Nation College, the first tribal college in Oklahoma. She also served as a Retention Coordinator in the Native American Student Affairs (NASA) Center at the University of Arizona where she was Program Manager of the First Year Scholars Program (FYSP), a living-learning community for 50 Native American incoming freshmen.

Natalie is a Gates Millennium Scholar alumna and belongs to the Gamma Delta Pi American Indian sisterhood.

Taylor Kingsbery

Taylor Kingsbery is an enrolled member of the Chickasaw Nation. She is the Tribal College and University (TCU) Program Administrator for the Office of Research and Sponsored Programs for the American Indian College Fund and oversees the programming and implementation of a variety of TCU programs.

Taylor was raised in Tishomingo Oklahoma, the (then) Chickasaw Nation Capitol. She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in behavioral science from Southeastern Oklahoma State University. She moved to Denver from Texas and started working at the College Fund in November, 2016. Taylor works side-by-side with the TCUs to implement programs, help with strategic planning, budgeting, mentoring data, and building relationships between the TCU and the College Fund. Prior to joining the College Fund, Taylor worked as a Senior Customer Success Manager at ReadyRosie, an early childhood education company, and as an Operations Manager at Grant the Good, a grant writing company. With a passion for non-profits and education Taylor has the ability to focus on both at the College Fund.

In her personal time life Taylor enjoys being outside, running, traveling, and reading.