Alumni Profile: Marie Zephier '04

posted on July 11, 2012

This profile is part of an ongoing series about particular Red Cloud alumni, and what they have been doing since graduating.

1. Talk a little bit about your childhood: where you grew up, where you went to school, how many years you attended Red Cloud, etc.

I grew up in Pine Ridge and consider myself an academic gypsy, considering the number of schools I attended. I started at Red Cloud, then went to Wolf Creek School, back to Red Cloud, Pine Ridge School, Crazy Horse School, Pine Ridge again, then completed my last three years of high school at Red Cloud. I was a third-generation graduate from Red Cloud High School. I also attended Upward Bound during the summers, as post-secondary education seemed the only option for making a difference in my future and the future of our reservation.

2. What have you been doing academically and professionally since graduating from Red Cloud? What have been some of the high points?

I have maintained my academic gypsy livelihood. I began class at the University of South Dakota, attended Creighton University, Metropolitan Community College in Omaha, and then the University of Arizona. I initially wanted to be a physician, but it was extremely challenging with a young child, and trying to make the transition to private institution/urban living. I could not decide on a major, so I took a career aptitude course at Creighton and realized I wanted to go into health administration. I then acquired a Business Administration Certificate since it only required a few more classes. I decided to maximize the potential of my Gates Millennium Scholarship and applied to graduate school. I chose the University of Arizona to experience a different region of the country. For first three summers of my undergraduate experience, I worked at Red Cloud as a donor relations specialist, and in doing so acquired a new appreciation for those effort from the administration of the school. Later, I was hired by the Ponca tribe of Nebraska as an integrated resource management plan intern, and gained valuable insights into the areas of strategic planning and grant writing. From there, I entered a graduate assistantship until coming home to complete thesis field hours with the Oglala Sioux Tribe’s Sacred Beginnings pre-conception health project. I am currently looking into DrPH (Doctor of Public Health) programs.

3. Please describe what are you currently doing academically or professionally.

I am in graduate school studying public policy and management concentration. I am currently an outreach specialist, meaning that I focus on developing curriculum and instruction, and take part in professional health summits, as well as community outreach regarding pre-conception health and other project initiatives.

4. Describe the path you took to get from graduating from Red Cloud to where you are today. How did you develop an interest in what you are doing nowadays, and how did you make your dream a reality?

I persevered through persistence, networking, and developing personal accountability by making schedules for myself, and taking advantage of tutoring sessions and other resources for students. My interest in the field of health administration developed because I wanted to make a difference in health outcomes through a population-based approach. The current IHS (Indian Health Service) health system has deficiencies for various reasons, but health services can be improved through partnerships, dedication and education. As an advocate for our people, I will do my best to utilize the skills acquired through my education to seek alternative solutions to lessen the gaps in health services on our reservation.

5. What obstacles did you have to overcome, or what were the greatest roadblocks you encountered?

Transitioning to a private institution, the culture shock and education differences made fitting in difficult. Through perseverance and flexibility, I was able to find resources that bridged the gap and helped me overcome obstacles. For example, I found reliable childcare and study groups to ensure that I would be successful. Also, prayer helped me through the lonesomeness. It was also important for me to realize that my time was a worthwhile investment, since once I acquired an education it could never be taken away.

6. What do you see yourself doing over the next year? The next five years? Ten years? What are your greatest hopes and aspirations for yourself?

Professionally, I hope to maximize my Gates Scholarship to its full potential and acquire a Doctorate in public health. Eventually, I would like to advocate for tribal members as a tribal researcher, and possibly through IHS administration.

7. How did your educational experience at Red Cloud prepare you for the life you live today, in terms of skills, values, attitudes, etc.

Red Cloud prepared me academically and provided the support I needed to finish my scholarship applications and college applications. I appreciate how it was expected, rather than asked, that we students would go on to higher education. On the reservation, people are often asked, "Are you going to college?" At Red Cloud we were asked, "Where are you going to college?"

8. Please talk about anything else that you feel is important to know about you.

I attribute my education and perseverance to my late grandparents, as they stressed education as a means to obtain the independence that I strived for even at a young age. When times were tough, I would pray for their guidance. Considering the obstacles I conquered, I know that they are always with me.