Ben Baldwin, an Alaska Native Governance student at APU, was recently elected the student board member for the National Indian Education Association, or NIEA. Based in Washington, D.C., NIEA draws together Indigenous voices to share ideas, develop programs, and advocate for federal policy that advances culture-based educational opportunities.
As one of 12 members on the national nonprofit’s board, Ben is now connected with Elders, PhDs, and education researchers with a common goal: increase the quality of life for American Indians, Alaska Natives, and Native Hawaiians through education.
Education has been a theme throughout Ben’s career. He serves on NIEA’s fiscal committee, as well as the education and finance committees for the Kenaitze Indian Tribe. In his roles with the Kenaitze, Ben helps provide oversight and input for the educational opportunities of his Tribe. The Tribal education division includes in-school tutors, after-school homework help, and services for students of all ages – from Head Start preschool programs to college scholarships,
“I love my Tribe. I love my people,” Ben said of his motivation. “I want to see us doing well, and I want to see us educated.”
In order to support education, he said, he needs to be educated himself. That’s what led him to APU’s Alaska Native Governance program.
Though Ben has held a number of roles within Alaska – he’s currently chair of CIRI’s Alaska shareholder participation committee and most recently worked as the Kenaitze’s culture and stewardship administrator – he recognized a college degree would open even more opportunities.
“This really fit with the direction that I have for my life,” he said of APU’s Alaska Native Governance degree. “It’s perfectly in line with the type of work I had been doing, and the type of work I want to continue doing.”
As a college junior elected to a two-year term on the board, Ben’s current roles will culminate at graduation. From APU, he’ll have an interdisciplinary framework for examining Tribal, village, and corporate systems in his home state. And from NIEA, he’ll have active experience advocating for Indigenous sovereignty at the federal level.