On September 22, Kelsey Leonard became the first Native American woman to graduate from England’s Oxford University. She’s a member of the Shinnecock Indian Nation of Southampton, New York and graduated with a master’s degree in water science, policy and management from St Cross College, one of Oxford’s 38 colleges.
“This is a tremendous accomplishment for not only Ms. Leonard but for all Native peoples of the United States,” stated a representative of the Shinnecock Indian Nation in an Oxford press release. “Kelsey continues to bring much pride to the Shinnecock Indian Nation.”
Before going to Oxford, the 24-year-old was the first member of the Shinnecock Nation to graduate from Harvard University, where she was a member of various Native organizations including the All Ivy Native Council and the Harvard University Native American Program. She was also a youth leader with the United American Indians of Delaware Valley in Philadelphia and was the executive co-president of UNITY, a national Native youth organization.
Native News Network reports that since graduation Leonard has been working as an independent consultant in western Pennsylvania with various nonprofits on environmental policy and water resource management projects.
“Water Quality For Native Nations: Achieving A Trust Responsibility” was the title of her master’s dissertation. It examines water quality regulation in the United States including the Clean Water Act and explores the decision-making processes over water resources in this country and how a large portion of the natural resource is not protected, namely water on tribal land.
About having graduated from Oxford, Leonard said: “It’s a great starting point for Indigenous Peoples to attend the top universities in the world and to continue to push the envelope of what we see for ourselves and our communities, and where we hope our academic endeavors lead us to,” she told The Southampton Press.