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Q&A with Nathan Esquerra, UA's first senior VP for Native American Advancement and Tribal Engagement

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The University of Arizona recently hired the first senior vice president for Native American Advancement and Tribal Engagement, Nathan Esquerra. Courtesy UA Associate Vice President for Communications Pam Scott 

A new position was created for senior vice president for Native American Advancement and Tribal Engagement at the University of Arizona, filled for the first time by Nathan Esquerra. He started his job on Sept. 8 and already has a wide range of ideas on how to provide opportunities for the Native American community. The Daily Wildcat spoke with Esquerra about this new position and his goals moving forward. 

Daily Wildcat: What are your plans to improve Native American student success and promote tribal interests?

Nathan Esquerra: We can attack these issues in multiple ways. One method would be through tribal engagement with tribal leaders. It is important to ensure that there is tribal engagement with tribal leaders. Their voices should be heard throughout the community. 

And letting tribal leaders bring a sense of home and belonging at the UA is a goal of mine. To have tribal leaders interact with the president of UA and students would allow for a bridge to be formed and aid with the sense of belonging for those in the Tucson community. 

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DW: What challenges did you see in the community when you previously held the position as tribal chairman?

NE: I was making a presentation and we spoke about tribal youth. When I heard the students' responses, I came to realize an important lesson. Most males wanted to be security guards and the majority of the females wanted to be waitresses. 

My goal in life is that whoever I come in contact with is successful. That means reaching his/her/their full potential. The goals in my tribe, the Chemehuevi tribe, were stunted. There is nothing wrong with wanting to be a security guard or a waitress, yet I want the youth to feel as if they can achieve anything they desire. 

My mom pushed me to go to college. I was the first generation in my family to attend a university. I was able to achieve many of my goals and I want those in my tribe to feel as if they can achieve anything they put their mind to. They can dream big.

DW: As a business development representative for the Arizona Commission of Indian Affairs, now known as the Governor's Office on Tribal Relations, what were some improvements you made in the community while holding that position?

NE: One of the things I did well was getting specific data into the hands of the tribes. It’s important to give opportunities to tribes. Every business opportunity, every idea that I had, it was vital to share with them. They should have every opportunity possible to achieve their goals. You have to connect the right people with the right decisions to make the best decisions. 

DW: What have you learned so far since you have taken the position as SVP?

NE: There are a lot of resources and opportunities, not only for students but faculty as well. I am here for a reason and I provide connections for things to happen. I’m excited that there are a lot of opportunities. We do have our challenges in the community, yet we have a tremendous amount of resources to combat these issues.

Just the other day, I saw the UA CARES campaign. Seeing the community come together was amazing. That sense of community is exactly what I want for students. I want to support students and staff, as well as help them with solutions.

DW: Do you recommend for students to take action at the UA to help promote Native American student success? How should we?

NE: Each and every one of us should take the opportunity to educate others. Wherever we go and whatever we do we have opportunities. We need to educate others of our culture and have proper respect for each other. We must remember to be patient, respect others and trust those who are providing us with opportunities.

We are taught to respect our elders. It is because they are survivors from mistreatment and hardships they have encountered. They were able to adapt and persevere through those times, and for that, they should gain an immense amount of respect. They have demonstrated that you have to make the most of every situation. 

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DW: Are there any other positions, other than SVP, that you currently hold?

NE: I hold a position on the Local First Arizona board. The organization supports the local economy and local individuals. They are really pushing the notion of "What could we do to support our local business?" The Fuerza is also an entrepreneurship program that has opened many doors for those who have struggles. … And getting back to the Local First program, it has funded newly started businesses, and they provide a cash match program. It took a while for this program to take off, as there was little trust, yet once that trust was gained, many opportunities opened up for those who were at a disadvantage. We have 22 tribal nations and I want to do everything I can to support them.


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