Chickasaw sophomore Adria Brown says the opportunity to study at Dartmouth College has changed her life. She didn’t know when she first came to the school in Hanover, New Hampshire during a Native American Fly-In Program that she would end up majoring in Native American studies, now she plans on making working with other Natives her life’s work.
“I have always felt that I need to give back to my community and that it is vital to encourage more and more Native students to apply to college,” she said in a Chickasaw Nation press release. “I don't know if I started Dartmouth thinking Native American studies was going to become my major. I thought government was the way to go, but I realized through the Native American studies classes that I enjoyed them the most, loved the subject, and was personally attached to everything I did. Through several research papers on forced sterilization specifically in the Native American community, I realized how much work still needs to be done, and that I could make a difference, however small.”
The annual Native Fly-In Program gives high school seniors a firsthand look at Dartmouth, its Native community and the services the school can offer them. Brown wants other Native students to know the program is available and also works for the Dartmouth Native American studies program as a College Knowledge intern, which provides information to incoming Native students to help ease the transition.
That transition wasn’t without struggle for Brown who was born in Ada, Oklahoma and grew up in St. Louis, Missouri, so she can relate to the incoming students or those just beginning their search for a school.
“At times, when derogatory comments were made… like being called a redskin in my first month at Dartmouth, I felt like I should just stay inside of my comfort zone and perhaps go where everyone was alike, where I was similar,” she said in the release. “Originally in my college application process, I did apply to University of Oklahoma and seriously thought that if I didn't get into Dartmouth, I would go there. It was comfortable, it seemed like home. And when Dartmouth gets hard I do consider it. But, in high school I started writing about this and realized that writing about being Chickasaw gave me a chance to express how I felt and made me realize that the best thing I could do was to reach outside of my comfort zone and surround myself in the unknown.”
Brown said that while the Native community at Dartmouth is strong, she is constantly reminded that above all else, she is Chickasaw first.
“I want places like Dartmouth to become comfortable places where you can be yourself, and learn,” she said.
Brown also works on Native student retention at Dartmouth. “Dartmouth's original mission was focused on educating Natives and I've taken that to heart to mean that everything I do on campus should be building others up,” she said. “For example, I also currently work at the financial aid office, and many times financial aid can be the scariest thing during the college process for Native students. It's helped me to understand the process myself, to help others out and provide a more friendly environment.”
Brown aspires to spend a couple of years teaching or doing research for the Chickasaw Nation after graduating from Dartmouth and before she continues her education. She plans on getting her master’s in Native American studies literature.
The Chickasaw Nation expressed how proud they are of Brown and her accomplishments thus far.
“The Chickasaw Nation is proud to recognize Brown as one of many college students who have taken their heritage with them to colleges across the country in an effort to learn more about their history and perhaps even plan to make it their life’s work,” stated the press release.