Research and Programs

Meet The Research and Sponsored Programs Team

David Sanders

David Sanders is the Vice President for Research and Faculty Development 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, Ed.D.

Tarajean Yazzie-Mintz

Tarajean Yazzie-Mintz, Ed.D., is Vice President for Program Initiatives at the American Indian College Fund (the College Fund) in Denver, Colorado. Yazzie-Mintz, an enrolled member of the Navajo Nation, earned degrees from Arizona State University (B.S. in Psychology and M.Ed. in Educational Psychology) and the Harvard University Graduate School of Education (Ed.D. in Learning and Teaching). Since 2011, Yazzie-Mintz designed and directed the College Fund’s Tribal College and University (TCU) Early Childhood Education Initiatives – directly impacting TCUs located in the states of Alaska, New Mexico, North Dakota, Michigan, Montana, Washington, and Wisconsin.  Engagement with TCUs includes providing technical assistance in the critical areas of community-based participatory inquiry, documenting Native children and family outcomes, strengthening instructional practices (including Native language immersion approaches), developing culture-based curricula and assessments, guiding culture-based curriculum standards alignment with state and national early learning guidelines, and providing support in achieving systems change and teacher education programming offered at higher education institutions.

Yazzie-Mintz maintains extensive networks in Native education and early childhood education serving historically under-served and under-funded communities and families. These networks include current partnerships with seven tribal college and universities, Brazelton Touchpoints Center, the National Association for the Education of Young Children, Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) Early Childhood Education Workgroup, and a consortium of W. K. Kellogg grantees serving diverse communities providing early learning and care to young children across the country.

Over the course of her career, Yazzie-Mintz conducted research focused on documenting Native teachers’ instructional practices and conceptions of culturally-appropriate curriculum, contributing to growing evidence-based practices that are inclusive of Native epistemology, language, and tribally-defined outcomes.  Research inquiries include framing community-based research from a strengths-based perspective, in which tribal communities can engage in addressing critical areas of need in educational attainment, contributing to respective tribal economic, educational, and political sustainability. Her research and community-based scholarship has been presented at more than 100 national and international scholarly meetings and symposia; additionally, her research has been published in scholarly publications focusing on teacher practice and community-based research impacting Native and non-Native early childhood, K-12, and higher education.

Yazzie-Mintz’s recognition as a national scholar of education earns her the honor to serve on national technical advisory and review committees informing early childhood educational research, such as the Tribal Early Childhood Research Center (University of Colorado – Denver) and the National Indian Education Study (NIES) (U.S. Department of Education & Office of Indian Education). Additionally, Yazzie-Mintz serves on editorial boards and has reviewed manuscripts for national and international academic journals, including Curriculum Inquiry, Journal of American Indian Education, American Indian Research and Culture Journal and Tribal College and University Research Journal. In May 2016, she was acknowledged for her contributions to education as the 2016 Recipient of the Harvard University Alumni Council Award for Outstanding Contributions to Education. And In January 2017, Yazzie-Mintz was appointed by President Barack Obama as a member of the Board of Directors of the National Board for Education Sciences.


Bridget SkinadoreBridget Skenadore

Bridget Skenadore, M.A. (Navajo/Dine) is the Program Officer of Native Arts and Culture 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 Harden

Cassandra Harden

Cassandra Harden is the Program Administrator for Tribal College and Universities 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. She is currently working on her Bachelor of Arts degree in Early Childhood Education at the University of Northern Colorado in Denver, Colorado.

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 programming support for the College Fund’s Tribal College and University Early Childhood Education Initiatives and the Indigenous Visionaries Native Women’s Leadership Fellowship.

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.