Indigenous Visionaries

Mentoring Native Women Leaders

Program Details

The Indigenous Visionaries initiative builds upon the American Indian College Fund’s previous work for a number of years developing Native women leaders, through education, mentoring, and networking. Indigenous Visionaries focuses on connecting students at tribal colleges and universities (TCUs) with faculty members in their area of study.

Within their academic disciplines, Indigenous Visionaries fellows will engage in research and programming that builds on and expands their studies, mentored by a tribal college faculty member with expertise in their field. Through this mentoring relationship, fellows will participate in a community project, learn how to address tribal and local issues, understand what it takes to create change in a community, and experience possibilities for a potential career in their field of choice.

The College Fund’s goal is to develop Native women leaders who have a foundation in Indigenous knowledge, culture, and history, and who will bring visionary leadership to Native communities in the future.

Leadership Initiatives

Embrey American Indian Women’s Leadership Project

In March 2010 the American Indian College Fund (the Fund) received a grant from the Embrey Family Foundation to initiate a women’s leadership program. The Embrey American Indian Women’s Leadership Project was a four-year leadership program for 20 American Indian women attending tribal colleges who have a high potential for future leadership and the desire to earn a bachelor’s degree.

Through individual and group training sessions and projects, this program is designed to develop participant’s leadership skills to create the next generation of Native female leaders. To provide the resources and foundation needed to help ensure success, participants receive annual scholarships to obtain a bachelor’s degree and annual funds to initiate leadership projects.

Six tribal colleges were identified to participate in the program. The program is limited to select group of tribal colleges in order to support the development of student cohorts at each school. The colleges were selected based on their legacy of strong female leadership, and diversity of geographic regions and degree offerings. Colleges selected include: Cankdeska Cikana Community College (N.D.);College of Menominee Nation (WI); Aaniiih Nakoda College (MT);Northwest Indian College (WA); Sitting Bull College (N.D.); and Southwestern Indian Polytechnic Institute (NM).

In 2014, The College Fund developed a more “place-based” model to the Native Women’s leadership program by designing the “Place-Based Leadership and Community Organizing” program. The vision remains the same, to “train and develop the next generation of Native women leaders, with more of a localized approach and mentoring philosophy.” Five of the six original cohorts are continuing their participation and the new TCU to the cohort led by strong female leadership is Diné College (AZ).

Indigenous Visionaries

Our Indigenous Visionaries Blogs

Wave of Change through Higher Education 

Kayla Dix (Salish) Early Education Preschool - Third Grade Education Major, Salish Kootenai College I am 29 years old and live on the Flathead Indian Reservation with my three beautiful daughters Kayci, Fallyn, and Sayla. Currently I am in my senior year at Salish...

Our Programs

Early Childhood Education

Connecting TCUs and our earliest learners, we support the creation and development of early childhood education from within Native communities — strengthening Native families’ roles as advocates and partners in their children’s education, and creating collaborations between early learning centers and community partners.

Native Culture and Language Preservation

Strong Native communities are built on tribal languages, cultural knowledge, and traditional arts. With many communities facing the risk of loss of language, culture, and traditional arts, we provide grants and support for communities to restore, sustain, and pass on traditional knowledge.

Environmental Stewardship

The College Fund invests in the TCUs that are engaged in strengthening their environmental science opportunities for students. It provides support for TCUs that are working with Native communities to develop and implement research initiatives and innovative collaborations.

Women's Leadership

By connecting Native women students at TCUs with faculty within their academic disciplines, and providing support for strong mentoring relationships, the College Fund is helping to develop the next generation of Native leadership in early childhood education, environmental science, and traditional Native arts.


Infrastructure involves design, implementation, and sustainability of systems and structures. We support tribal colleges and universities expanding their education offerings for students in this area, with opportunities to create well-designed learning spaces with the appropriate equipment, and to sustain or expand infrastructure.

Student and Institutional Success

We invest in individual students to support their pursuit of a college degree, and we invest in TCUs as the institutions that can provide an intellectual and academic home for students in Native communities.