Finding a community is a common goal among many university students, especially those who travel out of state to attend school.
Alexandria Hopkins, a first-generation student and class of 2021 graduate from the Department of Statistics, received two degrees in statistics and ethnic studies as well as a minor in mathematics. She was also a recipient of the Native Women in Science scholarship.
Hopkins found community at Colorado State University through her involvement with the Native American Cultural Center.
Seeking Native Community
Hopkins is a member of the Northern Cheyenne Nation from Billings, Montana. Although she and her mother didn’t live directly on the Northern Cheyenne Reservation, Hopkins was still able to be involved in the community.
“The reservation is about an hour and a half away, and that’s where my grandma lives,” said Hopkins. “And so, being close to my reservation and being able to, you know, go to basketball games and powwows, helped with my connectedness a lot.”
This strong sense of community at home inspired Hopkins to research involvement opportunities at the universities she applied to, which is how she found NACC.
Finding Her Place
During her orientation at CSU, Hopkins decided to use some free time to find the NACC office with her family.
“They were getting ready to close but they were welcoming and talked about all the different programming they had, like the All Nations Leadership Retreat, which is a partnership with the Asian Pacific American Cultural Center,” she said.
Hopkins felt encouraged to stay involved at the NACC office, despite never officially working for them. The office’s warmth and openness allowed her to foster a community throughout her years at CSU.
Hopkins was eventually awarded the Native Women in Science scholarship, which helped her balance her academic life with her involvement at NACC.
“Being first-generation, and being raised by a single mom, that scholarship really helped bridge those gaps of knowing all of the ins and outs of college,” Hopkins said.
Hopkins stayed on campus for summer classes in 2019. During this summer she served as the unofficial liaison between incoming students and the NACC office.
“Even though I wasn’t on staff or anything like that, I would help introduce [incoming students], and get to know them: what their major is, where they come in from, how orientations are going,” she said.
Tiffani Kelly, the assistant director for NACC, has known Hopkins since her first year at CSU. After years of working together, Kelly has a very strong sense of Hopkins’ passions and goals to support her community.
While Alex excelled in supporting younger students during her undergraduate degrees, her future endeavors are just as bright.
Kelly commented, “She has goals of going back into her Tribal community and working to support Indigenous communities.”
Hopkins’ studies led her to the Academic Advancement Center, where she eventually became a STEM peer mentor.
“The AAC is geared towards first-year and transfer students. Most of the students are from communities of color,” Hopkins said. “Being in that role, helping them transition, and being a mentor, that really meant a lot.”
Hopkins’ work has not gone unnoticed by others.
Fabiola Mora, the director of the AAC, said “Alex is deeply passionate about supporting STEM students. She is a great relationship builder and mentor.”
Hopkins became even more involved at CSU during her last two years, expanding beyond her work with the AAC and NACC offices.
“I have been an active member of the American Indian Science and Engineering Society since my first year at CSU, and spent a year as the vice president and this past year as the secretary,” she said.
Hopkins was also introduced to the Society for Advancement of Chicanos/Hispanics and Native Americans in Science, or SACNAS, by Arlene Nededog, the director of inclusion at CSU’s College of Natural Sciences.
After graduation, Hopkins is taking some time to plan out her next steps, in hopes to combine her knowledge of statistics and ethnic studies, as well as her interest in biology, into a meaningful career.
After some research, Hopkins has found a few graduate programs that interest her.
While Hopkins is still in the planning stage of her next venture, she has the full support of her colleagues at CSU.
“I know Alex is going to do amazing things as she starts this new journey outside of CSU,” said Kelly, “and I know whatever she chooses to do, will positively impact our people because of the care and passion she has. I’m just so proud of Alex, and excited to see what she does next!”
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