Office of the Assistant Vice Provost, Native American Initiatives

Native American Initiatives (NAI)


The Office of Native American Initiatives was established in 2020 to guide and support University of Arizona endeavors serving Native American students and faculty. A history of initiatives and the office are included in the NAI Strategic Plan.


To honor the Indigenous lands and Native Nations from which the University of Arizona has benefited by insuring the internal systems are in place to advance student success.


Native American Initiatives (NAI) is a leader in enhancing Native American student and faculty experiences on campus by being innovative and advancing initiatives that honor the importance of building relationships, trust, and mutually beneficial partnerships with Indigenous communities.

We present you with the final 2022-2027 Native American Initiatives (NAI) Strategic Plan: A Collective Approach to Nurturing Indigenous Student Success, which has been developing since the creation of the NAI office in January 2020.

Red Star International, Inc. (Red Star), an Indigenous-led non-profit organization, supported NAI in facilitating a planning process to create an Indigenous-centered, student-focused, and research-based framework to guide NAI’s commitment to leading and coordinating campus-wide support for Indigenous student success.

We added a one-year progress report of the different activities and initiatives aligned with the strategic plan that NAI either led or supported. The activities and initiatives are not a comprehensive list of all the work achieved by our institutional partners. However, it is a start in documenting the operationalization of the plan’s strategic priorities.

May the plan be helpful in your work as we strive to enhance the university experience for Native American students, faculty, and communities.

NAI Strategic Plan 2022-2027

Double-page spreads 8-1/2” x 11” pages

NAI Strategic Plan Year 1 Progress Report

NAI Strategic Plan Year 1 Progress Report (2022-2023)

The Indigenous Circle is a University of Arizona (UArizona) organization for staff and faculty members who are and/or work with Indigenous communities and/or Indigenous students. We foster networks and build collaborations to optimize partnership and programming opportunities in culturally appropriate and respectful ways, thereby, increasing our effectiveness at recruiting and retaining Indigenous staff, faculty, and students; ensuring community based participatory efforts; building Indigenous community capacity; supporting awareness of Indigenous contributions at campus events; and, ultimately becoming a recognized institutional entity.

Meetings:  Organization meetings are held in spring and fall and are hosted by a UArizona unit/department.  Date, time, and location will vary depending on the host.  Meeting announcements will be posted to the listserv.

Agenda:  The host of the meetings will provide a welcome and an overview of their unit/department to kick-off the meeting.  The remainder of the meeting will be open to other agenda topics put forth by the membership.

Listserv:; as a member, you are able to post announcements to this listserv.

To add or remove from listserv:  Please contact Martha Lee, Native American Initiatives Program Coordinator, at Thelistserv is restricted to UArizona employees only.

MESCIT is a math tutoring and mentorship program for Native American high school students in Southern Arizona. The program was established in 2018 by Dr. Irene Shivaei and Dr Gurtina Besla from the Department of Astronomy & Steward Observatory. MESCIT trains UArizona undergraduate students as math tutors to hold personalized math tutoring sessions at the Ha:sañ Preparatory and Leadership School, a charter high school in Tucson with predominantly Tohono O’odham students. This program operates at the interface of education and workforce development, with the goal to both advance math education and math identity among Native American high school students and also to help them realize their potential to pursue careers in STEM fields. UArizona undergraduates serve as both math tutors and mentors, offering students relatable role models pursuing careers in fields like engineering, physics, and math.

MESCIT is funded and supported by:

  • The UArizona Department of Astronomy & Steward Observatory
  • The UArizona College of Engineering
  • Larry Allen (Astronomy Board Donor)
  • The Office of the Senior Vice President for Native American Advancement & Tribal Engagement.
  • NOIRLab
  • Freeport-McMoRan



Program Leads:  Dr. Irene Shivaei & Dr. Everett Schlawin

Program Website

Native SOAR (Student Outreach, Access and Resiliency)

The University of Arizona (UArizona) College of Education's Native Student Outreach Access, and Resiliency (SOAR) is a high impact service-learning course and multigenerational mentoring program. Grounded in Indigenous teachings and ways of knowing, our GENERAL EDUCATION COURSE (HED 397C) and MENTORING PROGRAM centers the needs of Native students and provides engaging and effective programming for students, families, and educators at no cost.

Native SOAR was based on the success and structure of another College of Education program called Project SOAR which was established by Dr. Jenny Lee in 2005. In 2013, Dr. Amanda Tachine (Diné), UArizona alumna and Indigenous Higher Education scholar, partnered with Dr. Lee to Indigenize the SOAR program with the purpose of serving Native communities. Today, Native SOAR continues to increase college access among Native youth and families in southern Arizona and beyond!

In addition to providing culturally responsive programming and services, Native SOAR strives to support educational pathways for students from middle school through doctoral education. The program has been recognized nationally, including by First Lady Michelle Obama's Reach Higher initiative and in 2022, Native SOAR was also awarded the Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education (NASPA) Indigenous Peoples Knowledge Community's "Outstanding Student Support Program Award."

Since 2016, 238 undergraduates have served as Native SOAR mentors, representing over 70 UArizona majors. 90% of our mentors identify as citizens and/or enrolled members of Native nations, and represent 36 tribes across the country. In addition to serving as college mentors for middle/high school students, undergraduates also receive mentorship from Native graduate students, professionals, and/or community members. In this sense, Native SOAR is a multi-generational mentoring program, featuring familial and community values. Rooted in evidence-based best practices that create a strong familial environment for both mentors and mentees, Native SOAR promotes higher education attainment for K-12 students and retention and persistence for undergraduate students.

Read more about Native SOAR

Felisia J. Tagaban

Director, Native SOAR


Jeremy Garcia

Read Profile

Dr. Jeremy Garcia is the Interim Assistant Vice Provost for Native American Initiatives, UArizona Office of the Provost. He joined the office in this role in December 2023, as announced in a Provost’s Office release.

Dr. Garcia (Hopi/Tewa) is an associate professor of Indigenous Education in the Department of Teaching, Learning, and Sociocultural Studies in the College of Education. He is of the
Hospoawungwa (Roadrunner) clan. He is a co-founding director of the Indigenous Teacher Education Program (ITEP) at the University. While continuing his role with ITEP, in his new interim role, Dr. Garcia will focus on strengthening the University’s service to Native American students and faculty.


Martha S. Lee is the Program Coordinator for Native American Initiatives, UArizona Office of the Provost, where she supports programs and events for Native American students and faculty.

In a career of over two decades in higher education, Martha has worked on grants, public relations, and special projects for Tohono O’odham Community College and previously for the Extended University at the University of Arizona. She has focused on documenting and advocating for the success of Native American students in their educational journeys.

Read Profile




Felisia Tagaban Gaskin

Director of Native SOAR (Student Outreach, Access & Resiliency)


Amber Laughing

Program Administrator of MESCIT (Mentorship and Education in SCIence for Tucson)


Native American Initiatives works across campus with the following units. Within these units are many key exemplary programs and services supporting students and faculty.