April Eastman & the AIECC

In 2010, the American Indian Education Cultural Center opened as a stand-alone program.

South Dakota State University President David Chicoine, left, and his wife, Marcia, presents a quilt at the 2015 commencement ceremony.

South Dakota State University President David Chicoine, left, and his wife, Marcia, presents a quilt at the 2015 commencement ceremony.

In August 2012, April Eastman, an SDSU alumnae and member of the Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate tribe, was hired as the student adviser. Her roles later shifted when she added the responsibilities of being the interim director and program coordinator for the 2014-2015 academic year.

“In her position as the interim director, she guides the graduate assistants in our programming, works directly with advising the Native students, and essentially holds us all together,” said Corynna Nelson, AIECC graduate assistant.

April Eastman

April Eastman

This important role has allowed Eastman to explore more opportunities for students. Her goal is to open them up to not only what the AIECC has to offer, but also introduce them to different programs and organizations across campus and what they have to offer as well. These include:
•        focusing on a first-year scholars program that was implemented last year;
•        getting involved with orientation week;
•        building bridges across campus with other departments and student organizations, and;
•        encouraging students to attend the student bridges programs.

“April Eastman brings both her professional background as a counselor with college student development expertise and her personal self—a kind, thoughtful, ethical, reflective and committed Dakota woman—to her work directing the AIECC. This unique combination helps her connect to our tribal students, and others, professionally and personally.” said Ruth Harper, an AIECC advisory council member.

Since the recent changes, the AIECC has been finding new and innovative ways for the students to get connected. The program celebrated Native American month, which focused on different events and hosted guest speakers. It also featured a welcome social, an open house and a FASFA night, where financial aid staff individually met with students.

Participants who were going to serve as peers and mentors attend meetings to prepare for the American Indian Education and Cultural Center’s first-year American Indian Scholars Orientation.

Participants who were going to serve as peers and mentors attend meetings to prepare for the American Indian Education and Cultural Center’s first-year American Indian Scholars Orientation.

The center also holds an annual graduation honoring event. This year, 12 graduates were part of the ceremony. President David Chicoine and his wife, Marcia, annually participate in the event. He offers encouragement to the graduates as he drapes them in star quilts. It is a tradition among the Lakota and Dakota that high school or college graduation students receive quilts in recognition of their academic accomplishments.

The AIECC is also working on its alumni chapter. The project aims to identify ways the program can connect students with internship opportunities in their communities.

“Getting a pipeline throughout the communities and connecting with them is important. We want to make sure it’s a win-win for both sides, and we want to connect with all of our alumni, because a lot of them don’t know the center exists,” said Eastman.

A few of the participants display their new shirts.

A few of the participants display their new shirts.

Due to campus construction plans, the AIECC will be moving, and Eastman hopes the new place will allow alumni to return and interact.

As interim director, Eastman takes a unique approach.

“Because I care, and I listen, I don’t aspire to benefit from this role,” she said. “Prayer—a large part of who I am and how I show up every day—influences the choices I make. I don’t make decisions lightly, and it’s a lot of responsibility. It provides an opportunity to have a seat at the table.”

Kyle Barber

Leave a Reply