ALUM | Anpotowin (Savannah) Jensen, 2014

During her time at Red Cloud, Anpotowin Jensen ‘14 discovered a passion for science. She excelled in her classes, conducted her own independent research, and spent her summers interning at the National Institutes of Health. It was that passion for science that also allowed her to excel at Stanford University, where she just graduated with a degree in environmental engineering. Now she has already begun her master’s work at Stanford’s Environmental and Civil Engineering Program. It is all part of her journey toward a career devoted to discovery in the STEM [Science, Technology, Engineering and Math] fields.

“In engineering, I’m inspired by the growth mindset. We take data and work within our parameters to seek better solutions to the problems that face us. That’s the kind of learning I thrive in,” explained Anpo. “I learned the process of solving problems is just as important as the answer. The journey is just as important as the goal we set out for ourselves.”

Throughout Anpo’s journey, she has challenged herself to continue to explore, while remaining grounded in her deep connection to her family, her community, and her culture. That grounding is what kept her moving forward, and gave her the confidence to pursue her dreams.

“I knew since high school that I wanted to work in STEM. But there was a process of growing that I needed to go through to decide whether or not I actually believed I could do it. I often think back to my first year [at Stanford] and it’s crazy how far I’ve come. The first quarter especially was really hard. Everyone experiences homesickness, but I had a severe sense of culture shock throughout that whole year,” she shared.

“Because of the transition I had, there was a lot of initial self-doubt. But I just constantly referred back to our culture and the teachings. I believe in our ways much more than anything. And that helped me to say, ‘Okay, if I’m going to do this, I have to believe in myself.’ I went to my advisor and asked her to help me decide on pursuing engineering. She only had one question for me: she asked ‘Do you think you can do it?’ I said yes, and that was it!”

Anpo faced many challenges during her undergraduate studies--challenges that went well beyond the rigor of academics at Stanford. She broke her leg and couldn’t work for two quarters, making it difficult just to get herself to class. She lost her father, and then her grandfather shortly after, and had to continue to work through her grief. But with the support of amazing mentors, as well as her family and community, she used adversity as a tool to learn more about herself and the sources of her resilience.

“With adversity I learned to be honest with myself, self assess, and redirect where needed. I learned to advocate. I learned to ask questions, I learned to just have fun with it. It’s not about being right or perfect, it’s really about learning and figuring out how I learn. The whole aspect of taking it less serious and really diving into the challenges that come my way has allowed me to succeed,” she explained.

“Above all, my community is where I drew upon for strength. All of my relatives here are the most resilient and empowering people I have ever met. Pine Ridge is my homeland and has grounded me from the beginning. I am proud of my community and all the Lakota culture that they held onto and continue to thrive and live.”

As she embarks on the next part of her journey--in graduate school at Stanford--Anpo hopes her story will inspire the next generation of Red Cloud students, and particularly those who share her passion for science. She wants young people across the reservation to know that, with hard work and commitment, they can achieve anything they set their minds and hearts to.

“I have had people tell me that I am going to have it harder because I am from the Rez. That might be true sometimes, but it’s not always true. There are still a lot people who will downplay your background and the fact that you come from a Rez school. I know that, at one time, it was really hard to trail-blaze through that. But I think there are so many people doing it now, that come from the Rez, who are thriving in STEM and in other fields. I think it’s really about tenacity and not being perfect. If you fail at something, it’s about how you are going to come back from that,” said Anpo.

“I like to think of STEM as a way of life. Say you have a math problem and you don’t understand it. You have to try to come back to it and think through why you don’t understand it, and how you can try to understand it in a different way.”

That approach to life is what will guide Anpo through the next phase of her journey. And she’s looking forward to all the exploration ahead.

“I am excited to attend graduate school at Stanford. I truly love the subject I get to study and the faculty are themselves inspiring to me,” she said. “I love learning and I am just grateful that I have this opportunity.”



Meet January Tobacco '13, Red Cloud's New Director of Student Advancement & Alumni Support


last updated: June 5, 2019