Dr. Cassandra Manuelito-Kerkvliet came to Weber State to give a keynote address sharing personal stories about civility for the 12th Annual Native Symposium.
Manuelito-Kerkliet is the first Native American woman who has ever reached the position of a University president outside of tribal colleges. She is the president at Antioch University in Seattle. She reached her position with a bachelor’s degree in social work, a master’s in counseling education and a doctorate in education policy and management.
With her accomplishments, Manuelito-Kerkvliet shared with Weber State students and faculty members about her personal stories of civility and incivility.
Beginning her keynote, she discussed her Navajo culture, her name’s origin and her genealogy line. Concluding her introduction, she had audience members close their eyes so they could focus on the words that Manuelito-Kerkvliet received through mediation earlier before the keynote.
“We create our own well-being according to the way we conduct our lives with our mouth and our heart,” she said. “When we speak of good, we see it.”
As the crowd reopened their eyes, she told audience members to chart their own ways of how they can practice civility.
“Use your own internal guidance system to say that this campus stands for civility,” Manuelito-Kerkvliet said.
She told the story of how her family was the only Indian family within her hometown of Laramie, Wyoming. With her family being the only Indians in town, Manuelito-Kerkvliet said she experienced incivility and racism when going back to the reservation with negative stereotypes surrounding her, referencing lack of education and alcoholism.
After discussing her experiences, she talked about her gratitude for her ancestors, particularly her ancestor Chief Manuelito, who said, “Education is the ladder to success,” when signing a treaty in 1868 where he called the Indians to put down their weapons during the Indian wars.
Referring to her story about Chief Manuelito, she told all students their most modern weapon is their education, and it’s their knowledge because knowledge was the one thing people couldn’t take away from her growing up as she later went to college to become a future leader as a university president.
As a university president, she has found ways to engage her faculty and staff in civility by holding events known as talking circles, where her faculty and staff can get to know her each other better on a deeper level.
Within these talking circles, she has helped increase raises between a range of 25 to 35 percent for her faculty and staff.
Weber State student Mekenzie Williams said she was very impressed to hear how dedicated Manuelito-Kerkvliet was to the needs in her community by working one on one with others.
Toward the end of the keynote, Manuelito-Kerkvliet asked students how they can honor themselves and reminded them during a native prayer ritual at the end of the keynote to always communicate, cooperate with and respect each other.
With Manuelito-Kerkvliet’s advice in mind, Weber State student Regan Quinn said she will remember everyone is going through something in life as a way to honor civility.
“We are all people, so we need to be sensitive of how others feel and treat everyone more kind,” Quinn said.