Throughout the month of November the University of Southern Maine will be honoring and highlighting Native voices within our community. Students, faculty, staff, and alumni will be sharing their heritage and their story.
Name: Ashlyn Tomer
Position/Connection with USM:
What band or tribe are you affiliated with and at what age did you become aware of your Native Heritage?
I am part of the Penobscot Tribe. I grew up being aware that I was Native American but I didn’t truly identify until I came to USM where it was talked about much more.
How has maintaining your Native heritage enriched your life?
It has allowed me to meet so many people in the community and give me a sense of belonging.
Are you involved with your community? How do you stay active within your community?
During my undergrad I was the President and founder of the Native American Student Alliance at USM. We helped by going to many events that included Native speakers and brought awareness to others by advocating for Native Students on campus.
I am now a grad student at USM working on my Masters in Leadership Studies. Although I am not as active on campus I chose to focus my thesis on Native Americans in the Wabanaki community. My research will investigate authentic leadership practiced by Wabanaki leaders and how it creates close-knit relationships within their community. Through my work I hope to uplift the Wabanaki community and inspire Native students to explore the leadership qualities of their heritage and how they can implement them in their communities and future leadership positions.
Specifically at USM, what was positive and what do you think could be improved to make Native experience better (student or employee)?
I find it great that during my time at USM I have been able to find staff and students who support me as an indigenous scholar and are helping me and others to create change across campus. I think the most challenging part looking back at my undergrad and trying to start the Native American Student Alliance was finding the other Native students. I think continuing to have Native American representation in faculty and students will help other Native students create those connections to their heritage. Lastly, I think it’s important that the university honors the history of the Wabanaki culture and what USM’s land was well before it became a university.