American Indian Woman Scholar

The American Indian Woman Scholar (AIWS) is a competitive, application-and-competition-based program that selects an annual student ambassador at the University of Utah. The chosen individual serves as a representative for Indigenous students and is dedicated to building stronger connections with the student body, promoting leadership, cultural awareness, and student engagement in higher education. The AIWS program has helped foster future Native leaders dedicated to serving their communities. By uplifting Native women’s legacies and positive impacts of Native-led initiatives, we affirm Native identities and futures, while advancing belonging and engagement through community service. 


  • Enrolled at the University of Utah as a part-time or full-time student
  • In good standing at the University of Utah during the entire period of service
  • Maintain a minimum GPA of 2.5 during the full academic year 2022-2023
  • Possess knowledge of American Indian history, culture, and traditions
  • Demonstrated leadership, community service, and commitment to positively represent the American Indian community and the University of Utah
  • Committed to representing the American Indian student population and American Indian communities in a professional and culturally appropriate way for the period of service
  • Available to participate in the AIWS competition on April 20, 2023


  • Kiyanna Juliamae Porter (Diné)

    Miss AIWS 2022-23

    Major: Mathematics with a minor TESOL Certificate (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages)

    Graduation Year: 2025

    Purpose/Initiative: Kiyanna Porter started her journey as an ambassador by participating in events and displays that raised awareness around Indigenous issues across the University of Utah campus. She started her campaign focusing on Indigenous reconciliation during Orange Shirt Day, and planned events with the University Marriott Library display team. She also organized a display with the Inter-Tribal Student Association (ITSA) and the American Indian Resource Center (AIRC) that showcased different Indigenous issues and personal stories from elders regarding their experience with boarding schools. In order to raise student body awareness and promote engagement, she’s partnered with ITSA and the AIRC to develop events involving tabling and socials. She has worked with university journalists to share the experiences of Indigenous students for the Humans at the U feature—and she’s worked with local news to raise awareness for other projects. Finally, Kiyanna has worked with the AIRC to fundraise money for the center and works with the university, attending workshops and STEM conferences. Most recently, she’s been working with the Math for All initiative hoping to encourage more Indigenous youth to pursue STEM fields.

  • Dana Joe (registered Navajo Nation/Diné, Kiowa and Creek Bee Nishlo, Bee Dine Nishlo, Twoonigoshi Bashishcheen)

    Miss AIWS 2020-22

    Major: Nursing with minors in Psychology, Gerontology and Kinesiology with an emphasis in Health

    Graduation Year: 2025

    Purpose/Initiative: During her ambassadorship, Dana’s platform focused on health promotion and education. Health and education are just a few of the many factors that are needed to advocate for equitable as well as accessible resources for Indigenous Peoples. Community health is tremendously important, not only for people to feel good and look good, but also to ensure the success of our Indigenous communities. Recognizing and adopting preventative health practices in our daily lives is vital for protecting the health of our relatives. Participating in health promotion gives everyone the chance to ensure that the cultures of Indigenous Peoples continue to thrive. The ability to care for oneself and access essential services such as quality healthcare, food, water and education will help Indigenous populations thrive. Dana is also interested in encouraging more young people to pursue higher education, since this will provide them with more opportunities and a greater voice to speak about health care and the educational disparities affecting the Indigenous population.

  • Shaniah Chee (Navajo/Diné)

    Miss AIWS 2019-20

    Major: Bachelors of Arts in Anthropology with minor in Native American Studies

    Graduation Year: 2020

    Purpose/Initiative: When Shaniah was beginning her role, her goals and ambitions were to recruit, advocate, and spread awareness for indigenous communities on campus. This meant that, even though the University is known as the “home of the Utah Utes,” there are numerous indigenous students who had questions about this affiliation. Shaniah helped break those barriers and stereotypes down on campus. On visits home she would participate in ceremonies and community events, share the importance of higher education and how it can make an impact, and recruit students! She also advocated more at high schools, because these students need encouragement during this important stage of life.

    Shaniah also served during the pandemic year, when so many students were worrying about their relatives back home while trying to keep up their studies. She wanted to ensure that students stayed motivated and resilient during their time at the U—and connected through their far away kinship with each other. She says she felt her purpose was to be there for her peers through that tough year of transitioning.

  • Angelica Norton (Navajo/Diné)

    Miss AIWS 2018-19

    Major:Film & Media Arts

    Graduation Year: 2019

    Purpose/Initiative: When Angelica served as an ambassador for the University of Utah, she traveled with her family across Wasatch to represent her family, community and school to people from all over the world. She was an advocate for higher education and served as an example to young students, sharing her experiences in higher education with them. She was especially interested in letting future students know that there are resources and aid for those who face financial barriers. She also informed students about supportive communities on campus to help meet their needs.

  • Tiara Willie (Navajo/Diné)

    Miss AIWS 2018-19

    Major:Pre-Med Atmospheric and Environmental Chemistry with minor in Physics with an Astronomy emphasis

    Graduation Year: 2025

    Purpose/Initiative: Tiara used her role to introduce Native American students to higher education. She attended elementary schools, women in STEM conferences, and local activist events. Tiara grew up in Salt Lake where she wasn’t well-represented in schools. That is why she took the initiative to represent her people and show the community her culture and her language. She felt this was especially important for the younger generations who may also feel like they can’t find people that look like them, are from the same place, and share the same culture. She says, “I felt like I accomplished [my goal] during my time role as ambassador, and I can’t wait to continue inspiring other Indigenous youth to pursue higher education.”

  • Racheal Holiday, MPH (Navajo/Diné)

    Miss AIWS 2017-18

    Major:Bachelor of Science Health Promotion and Education from University of Utah
    Master of Public Health from North Dakota State University

    Graduation Year: 2019

    Purpose/Initiative: Racheal used her platform to advocate for Native Americans in higher education.

  • Tinnarrie Lameman (Navajo/Diné)

    Miss AIWS 2016-17

    Major: Nursing, BSN

    Graduation Year: 2020 Graduate from Salish Kootenai College

    Purpose/Initiative: Tinnarrie promoted post-secondary education through higher education, trade schools, and/or the military post high school. She used her platform to speak on her experiences as a native scholar and share ways to manage/overcome the daily obstacles of the application process, scholarships, culture shock, and homesickness, etc. Her main purpose was to provide encouragement to everyone, to inspire them to pursue more than they would have ever expected of themselves, and to keep traditional teachings close to them on their educational endeavors.

  • Taylor Russell (Navajo/Diné)

    Miss AIWS 2015-16

    Major: Bachelor of Science in Biology, Minor in Chemistry with an Anatomy & Physiology emphasis 

    Graduation Year: 2020

    Purpose/Initiative: Taylor advocated for higher education among elementary and high school students by bringing awareness to resources that are tailored specifically to the unique challenges faced by American Indian and Alaska Native students. She focused on promoting membership in cultural student groups such as the Inter-Tribal Student Association, American Indian Science and Engineering Society, and the Center for Ethnic and Student Affairs (now the Center for Equity & Student Belonging), which she believed would help recruit and retain students on campus.