BOONE, N.C. — Staff member Rachel Fried, adviser for Appalachian’s Native American Student Association (NASA), enjoys building bridges at Appalachian State University to improve understanding of modern Native Americans — including those drawn to Appalachian.
A total of 59 Appalachian students identified as Native American in fall 2019 — a 34% increase since fall 2014. With increasing numbers of Native American students on campus, Fried has been instrumental in broadening awareness of them and their families, as well as what they need during college.
“I want to create open, friendly dialogue,” said Fried, who frequently makes presentations and leads conversations on campus. “I want to help people know what they don’t know. It helps our students and it helps us all be better people.”
Fried has been working closely with the Office of the Chief Diversity Officer and Intercultural Student Affairs to reverse incorrect assumption-making so Native American students can be better served. She also facilitates conversations between faculty and students if a classroom conflict arises.
Fried has helped other universities expand recruitment and understanding of Native Americans. Of Appalachian, she said, “This is an amazing institution. Appalachian is uniquely positioned to dive in and do this work well.”
Appalachian already has “a lot going that we can talk about with prospective students who are Native American: faculty teaching indigenous studies courses, events related to Native Americans, NASA and Native American faculty and staff. Chief Diversity Officer Willie Fleming has been extremely supportive of this work, and I’m excited to keep doing this work with him,” she said.
Fried said misconceptions about Native Americans persist, based in part on narratives in history books. Among these: Native Americans no longer exist, have been “bred out” or all reside on reservations.
“Only approximately 20% of Native Americans live on reservations or other indigenous lands. The rest of us are your neighbors in rural communities, cities and in the suburbs,” she said.
To help others become more aware of Native Americans and end stereotyping, Fried offers the following information:
- The Native American population is incredibly diverse, she said. Its forms of identity go beyond race and ethnicity since Native American individuals are citizens of their tribal nations as well as of the U.S.
- Think individually. “There is no singular ‘Native culture.’ We are from hundreds of nations, each with distinct cultures, traditions and spiritual practices,” she said.
- Recruit differently. Due to the complex identity of Native American students, the most effective recruitment methods include showcasing Native American-specific aspects of campus — such as student groups or a center. Language matters, too, said Fried — the words “multiculturalism” or “diversity,” for example, are not terms all Native American students connect with.
- Use Fried as a resource to become educated about Native Americans. Sometimes Native American students become frustrated having to explain their identity to non-Native Americans, Fried said. Therefore, she said she is happy to be a point of contact for anyone with questions about the population.
Fried works in Appalachian’s College Access Partnerships.
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About Diversity and Inclusion at Appalachian
Appalachian State University is committed to developing and allocating resources to the fundamental task of creating a diverse campus culture. We value diversity as the expression of human similarities and differences, as well as the importance of a living and learning environment conducive to knowledge, respect, acceptance, understanding and global awareness. Learn more at http://diversity.appstate.edu.
About Appalachian State University
As the premier public undergraduate institution in the state of North Carolina, Appalachian State University prepares students to lead purposeful lives as global citizens who understand and engage their responsibilities in creating a sustainable future for all. The Appalachian Experience promotes a spirit of inclusion that brings people together in inspiring ways to acquire and create knowledge, to grow holistically, to act with passion and determination, and to embrace diversity and difference. Located in the Blue Ridge Mountains, Appalachian is one of 17 campuses in the University of North Carolina System. Appalachian enrolls more than 19,000 students, has a low student-to-faculty ratio and offers more than 150 undergraduate and graduate majors.