When Unite:Ed director Dana Arviso was a PhD student at the UW College of Education about 15 years ago, there was something she yearned to incorporate into her research on literacy in Native American communities.
“I wanted to do research that was with and for communities,” Arviso said. “I really had a desire to make my research community-based.”
What Arviso found, however, was that the infrastructure for the partnership-based research she craved wasn’t available — at least not for PhD candidates at that time.
“Fifteen years ago, the thinking was that that would be really good work — but more appropriate for later on in your career,” Arviso said. “It wasn’t meant to be dismissive. We just didn’t have the right supports in place.
“I didn’t complete my doctorate — in part because I couldn’t figure out how to navigate my desire to do community-based work within the academy.”
Instead, Arviso, who had already earned her master’s degree from the College, went to work for the Potlatch Fund, the Northwest’s leading philanthropic organization dedicated to building on the Native tradition of giving to strengthen tribal communities.
During her decade at the Potlatch Fund, Arviso became its executive director, significantly expanding the fund’s grant-making capabilities. She also served as a board member for Native Americans in Philanthropy, the Social Justice Fund Northwest and the American Indian Graduate Center.