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2020 Inspiring Women | Leilani Sabzalian

Posted by on Sep 11, 2020 | Comments Off on 2020 Inspiring Women | Leilani Sabzalian

Leilani Sabzalian is an Assistant Professor of Indigenous Studies in Education and Co-Director of the Sapsik’wałá Program at the University of Oregon. She is also the author of Indigenous Children’s Survivance in Public Schools, and recently won the American Education Research Association (AERA) Outstanding Book Award.

Hi Leilani. What is your occupation and what does it include?

I am an Assistant Professor of Indigenous Studies in Education and Co-Director of the Sapsik’wałá Program at the University of Oregon. My role is to prepare future teachers, in particular future Native teachers who will go on to teach in Tribal communities. I also do research and writing that helps educators teach about important topics, like Native studies and ethnic studies.

What do you love/enjoy about your profession?

Less than 1% of professors at universities are Native women (actually less than half of 1%!). I enjoy being a role model for other Native women who want to become professors and want to research and write about issues that are important to them and their communities.

Who inspires you?

It is so hard to choose one person! I am currently inspired by Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors, and Opal Tometi, the three Black women who founded the Black Lives Matter movement. Not only did they start this important movement for racial justice, but as Black women – two of whom identify as queer and one as an immigrant – they continue working tirelessly to create an inclusive movement and a future in which all Black lives matter.

What advice would you give to a young girl?

Dare to be who you are; you have a unique perspective and gift that can make the world a better place. Have the courage to stand up for what’s right, even when it’s hard. And try to surround yourself with people that love and support you, that help you make good choices, and that help you be your best self.

What/in what ways have you been dealing with quarantine?

I have been trying to practice gratitude for all of the blessings in my life, including having more time to spend with my family.

What is a challenge you’ve faced and how have you overcome it?

I was not a good student when I first went to college. I failed a lot of classes and even lost my softball scholarship. I eventually dropped out and was pretty ashamed of myself. Going back and trying again was hard, but once I found my passion and purpose, and surrounded myself with folks who believed in and supported me, I did much better. Having a higher purpose to work toward, as well as a community that supported me, were keys to overcoming that challenge.

What is your favorite baked good?

All of them, especially when they’re warm!

Thank you, Leilani!