Dawn Elizabeth Hardison-Stevens is a 2014 graduate of the PhD Program in Leadership and Change at Antioch University.

Above: Dr. Dawn Hardison-Stevens at her Dissertation Defense .

Left to Right: Dr. Carolyn Kenny [Committee Chair], Dr. Dawn Hardison-Stevens, Dr. Cornel Pewewardy [Committee Member].

[Not pictured] : Dr. Jon Wergin [Committee Member], Dr. Evelyn Steinhauer [External Reader]

Tribal Affiliations :

  • Dr. Carolyn Kenny (Choctaw and Haida)
  • Dr. Cornel Pewewardy (Comanche and Kiowa)
  • Dr. Evelyn Steinhauer (Cree)
  • Dr. Dawn Hardison-Stevens (Cree, Ojibwa, and Cowlitz)


educational philosophy, Indigenous Leadership, Native Americans, Indigenous research methods, Indigenous epistemology, transformational leadership, pedagogy, Medicine Wheel, interconnectedness, tribal communities, portraiture, ethnography, phenomenology, IRM, educational change

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This dissertation explores the research question, “How can we create the best learning environments for Indigenous students through good leadership at all levels?” A bridge between cultures provides learning opportunities toward academic success between Indigenous students, families, leaders, and communities. Through personal experience as a practitioner, professional, and education, my research examines and identifies results from personnel and students at five schools, tribal and public, their tribal communities, and two Indigenous people in high profile leadership positions indicating an educational philosophy recognizing Indigenous people need the academic system as much as the academic system needs Native people. Portraits and interviews revealed the existence of pedagogical methodologies oriented toward Native student success yet mainstream academic institutions are failing Native peoples to the detriment of their tribal communities. In many tribal communities, leadership beholds many styles, modeling modes of life amid Mother Earth, yet education needs to be bridged with philosophy. Through personal experiences and delving in to educational leadership, a life’s passion emerged toward Indigenous leadership philosophy to educate in collaborative and inclusive manners bridging perceptions between educators, Indigenous peoples, respective communities, and leadership building toward policy attainment. Academic opportunities for success with intergenerational Native students identify necessary interconnectedness with a leadership philosophy. Many successful leadership and education models compare to Indigenous styles from several hundred years ago. The literature reflects on challenges and academic success bridging cultural standards resulting in a range of academic and leadership interest among Native communities. The electronic version of this dissertation is at OhioLink ETD Center,