August 2015

Leadership Institute at the Santa Fe Indian School


Carnell Chosa


The Leadership Institute at the Santa Fe Indian School (LI) was established in 1997 to create opportunities for discourse on a wide range of public policy and tribal community issues that were challenging the vitality and spirit of New Mexico’s tribal nations. Through 15 programs designed and implemented by LI co-founders Regis Pecos, Carnell Chosa and staff, the LI uses a Pueblo community core values-based lens to strengthen four themes that run throughout the institute’s programs: community service, leadership, public policy and critical thinking.

From the beginning, two programs have provided a foundation for the LI: Community Institutes, a convener think tank designed to bring community members together to address pressing issues from diverse perspectives; and the Summer Policy Academy, a Pueblo youth summer intensive that introduces the youth to tribal, state, national and international policy issues and requires them to implement community service projects in their respective communities. Community Institute participants serve as faculty to the Summer Policy Academy and mentor its students. The two projects have served more than 4,000 participants, including 200 Summer Policy Academy graduates.

One of the more recent programs the LI conceived is the Pueblo Indian Doctoral Cohort. In 2012, through support from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, the LI partnered with Arizona State University’s School of Social Transformation to design and implement a doctoral training program focused on the LI’s work in Pueblo communities. Ten inaugural cohort members, each with more than 15 years of professional work experience, graduated in May 2015. Cohort members included attorneys, educators, nonprofit leaders, health professionals and business leaders. The curriculum design allowed each student to explore and research the intersections of their academic interests, professional careers, Indigenous Knowledge Systems (IKS), and justice, as they related to 10 critical issue areas related to Pueblos, identified by LI participants over the course of 15 years.

What made the Pueblo Indian Doctoral Cohort successful was the special attention to design and delivery. All scholars remained in New Mexico and maintained their professional careers during their course of study. Courses were delivered in four ways: students traveling to Tempe, professors traveling to New Mexico, video conferencing, and course travel modules in which the cohort took classes with other indigenous doctoral students throughout the world, including the Saami in Norway and the Maori in New Zealand.

Another innovative element to the program was the dissertation. It was designed so that each individual’s dissertation served to contribute to collective products in the form of a Pueblo Doctoral Cohort book, edited by project principals, Drs. Bryan Brayboy and Elizabeth Sumida Huaman, and an article in a special edition of the Journal of American Indian Education, edited by Drs. Terri McCarty and Tsianina Lomawaima. The final piece to the dissertation required development of a policy position paper focused on each scholar’s area of research. Each of these policy papers is currently being implemented.

Our people’s contributions in the areas of science, architecture and philosophy have kept our communities strong for many generations. This opportunity provided each of us to contribute another layer in maintaining and building upon the Pueblo way of life,” said Dr. Corrine Sanchez, executive director of Tewa Women United.

Eurocentric academic research in indigenous communities has often had destructive effects. The graduates were motivated in part by the belief that research conducted by Native American scholars in their homelands will likely be more ethical and culturally responsive.

A second cohort of doctoral and masters students will begin in late fall 2015.



Carnell Chosa, Ph.D., (Jemez Pueblo) is co-director of the Leadership Institute at Santa Fe Indian School.




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