Catherine Calvert is a 2014 graduate of the PhD Program in Leadership & Change at Antioch

Blanket Ceremony honoring Catherine Calvert’s Dissertation Committee at the completion of her dissertation defense.

[Left to Right] Dr. Wendy Rosen, Committee Member, Dr. Al Guskin, Committee Member, Dr. Catherine Calvert, Dr. Carolyn Kenny, Committee Chair


Native Americans, women, leadership, empowerment, healing, Tribal Colleges, university partnerships, portraiture, TCUs, higher education, cohorts, non-traditional students, self-efficacy

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This study explores the leadership, change, and empowerment stories of Native American women who participated in a tribal university partnership culturally based higher education program. In light of research identifying a prevailing lack of higher education completion rates for Native American students, my intention is to share the success stories of Native American women who persisted, graduated, and influenced their communities. Narratives of students’ higher education persistence, community leadership, and empowerment are important to inspire future generations of students to first see the possibility of higher education for themselves, and then investigate their options and participate as students. After reviewing the relevant literature I present portraitures based on the methods of Lawrence-Lightfoot and Davis (1997) and Lawrence-Lightfoot (2005), including my self-portrait and portraits of members of my cohort, and I then analyzed and interpreted the emergent themes. The research includes a cultural dinner and focus group, as well as individualized interviews. I make recommendations on how these themes create implications for leadership and change within individuals and Native American communities. Portraiture is a research approach that focuses on “the good” and offers an opportunity to engage in a relational story-making process. Relational practice and narratives have the best chance of influencing future Native American students who choose a path of higher education because they align with the culture of Native American communities. My inquiry into the cohort members’ individual stories of empowerment and leadership in their communities is guided by my belief that these stories are important, and will have an influence on higher education. Pavel (1992) identified a need for more qualitative research to tell the stories of Native American students and their higher education experience. The research on Native American students in higher education had been largely quantitative and deficit based. I used qualitative phenomenological ethnography portraiture as my methodology. Culturally, this method fits with the tradition of stories and within Indigenous populations. To focus on “what is good” rather than identifying problems and providing answers is an appropriate focus for my impending research into the cohort members' stories. The electronic version of this Dissertation is at OhioLink ETD Center,


Dr. Catherine Calvert is an Educator Advocate. She is a graduate of Antioch University Seattle at Muckleshoot Tribal College for both her baccalaureate and masters degrees. She is a Muckleshoot Tribal Member.