Jessica Owens is a Sophomore at the University of Iowa studying Mathematics with an Economics concentration, and is currently the co-president of the Native American Student Association (NASA). Jessica has been at Iowa since the Fall of 2015 immersing herself in several student organizations as well as volunteering in the Iowa City community.
Tell me about the Native American Student Association
The Native American Student Association provides a network for Native students on campus. It also raises awareness about native issues to other students on campus through various events and campaigns.
Why is NASA important to you?
When I came to the University of Iowa, I had no idea how to connect with other Native students. Through a chance meeting with Haley Henscheid, then-president, I got involved with NASA. It has proven to be a comforting environment where I can engage with people who understand my culture without having to explain everything.
How is your organization making a difference on campus?
I think we have been able to reach out to a lot of different demographics on campus who may not be aware of Native issues before. Particularly, we have focused on the #NoDAPL movement - resisting the Dakota Access Pipeline - a lot this year, since it is incredibly relevant to the lives of Native students. Additionally, we also did an event discussing our members’ different tribal identities that had a great turnout. I think in general we’ve been able to amplify Native voices this year.
How many people are involved in NASA?
About 12 students regularly show up to meetings. However, there are also a lot of faculty who put a lot of time and effort in this organization as well as advisors.
What is something that most people don’t know about NASA?
That NASA isn’t solely comprised of Native American-identifying individuals. Our organization welcomes everyone, including other indigenous identities, such as Indigenous Mexican, Mayan, and First Nations individuals.
What challenges have you faced in being a part of this organization/ getting your message across to the student body?
Being such a minority on campus, it is often difficult to get people to have a vested interest in our issues. Occasionally, general ignorance of Native issues can also be a roadblock.
What has been your proudest moment been?
Seeing how many people have come to #NoDAPL rallies on campus and recognizing that other student organizations as well as individuals support your causes and care about making your issues visible.
What have your learned or how have you grown since your involvement?
I feel like I’ve become so much more in tune with everything that is happening on campus. Not just within NASA, but also being able to support other organizations in gaining visibility for their issues.
What do you hope your organization will accomplish in the future?
Most importantly, I hope that we will have better Native recruitment. I hope that our university will foster a better, more welcoming environment for Natives transitioning into college life, especially at a primarily white institution. In this way, I hope that our organization will grow within the next few years.
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