Karletta Chief, an assistant professor and extension specialist of hydrology at the University of Arizona, has been named Professional of the Year by the American Indian Science and Engineering Society.
The award is presented annually for overall leadership and technical achievement.
Chief recently partnered with the UA College of Public Health on two grants totaling over $1 million to investigate the impacts of the Gold King Mine Spill on Navajo communities along the San Juan River in northwestern New Mexico. And this isn’t her first award—in 2011, she was named the AISES Most Promising Engineer/Scientist. In her collaborations on and off campus, she has helped to secure more than $6.2 million in research funds since she came to the UA in 2011.
“It’s a big honor to receive this award because AISES is dedicated to advancing the education of Native Americans in STEM,” Chief, a member of the Navajo Nation, said. “Just thinking about where I was when I was 18, starting college at Stanford as a first-generation college student from the reservation and really needing support and guidance, I really do acknowledge the support I received not only from AISES scholarships, but more significantly AISES mentorship. So receiving this award is truly an honor because of the history of what AISES has done for me and coming full circle as a Native American professor advising and mentoring Native American students and doing research that seeks to address critical environmental issues facing tribes.”
AISES is a national, Native American nonprofit whose mission is to substantially increase the representation of American Indians, Alaska Natives, Native Hawaiians, Pacific Islanders, First Nations and other Indigenous Peoples of North America in science, technology, engineering and math studies and careers. Through scholarships and internships, workforce development and career resources, national and regional conferences, science fairs, leadership development and other STEM-focused programming, AISES is a leader in providing STEM opportunities for American Indians.
Chief, who is on the faculty of the Department of Soil, Water and Environmental Science, was nominated by Sharon Megdal, a former professor of Chief’s and present colleague and collaborator. Megdal is the director of the UA’s Water Resources Research Center.
“Karletta is an exceptional human being,” Megdal said. “Her willingness to collaborate with others is boundless, her contributions are significant in so many dimensions, and her knowledge, along with her patience, enables her to work effectively with individuals and groups of diverse backgrounds. And she is kind and generous.”
Chief’s award is one of several given annually by AISES. This year’s recipients will be honored at the 2016 AISES National Conference November 10-12 in Minneapolis.