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American Indian Studies Program

Judith Antell

Director Emerita, American Indian Studies Program
Ph.D. Ethnic Studies

Faculty Profile, Judy Antell: Administrator, Teacher, Leader, Counselor, and Peace Maker
By Dean Oliver Walter

Although it is unusual for us to feature an administrator in A&S You Like It's Faculty Focus section, we (the A&S Cabinet) decided to make Judy Antell, director of American Indian Studies (AIS), the exception. In the early 1990's, UW's Indian Education Office was beset by very difficult problems and conflicts. The administration decided to transform the functions of the office, change its name, move it into the College of Arts and Sciences, and seek a new director. Despite the fact that Judy was a newly minted Ph.D. from Berkeley, she was clearly the most qualified of the applicants, and she assumed the directorship of the AIS program in spring of 1993. With the exceptions of Eric Sandeen (American Studies) and Steve Bieber (Statistics) she is the longest serving head or director in A&S.

Judy faced a daunting task when she assumed her position. She was expected to perform the student service role for American Indian students, as well as to develop a curriculum for American Indian Studies. For a brand new untenured professor, this was, to say the least, an ill-advised expectation. And, as time has gone by, the Office of Student Services has again assumed some of the responsibility for the nonacademic needs of Indian students, although AIS is much more concerned with such issues than is any other A&S unit.

Directors of the minority studies programs are expected to build their teaching faculty by convincing interested and qualified faculty in the traditional departments to join their interdisciplinary groups. Judy, who is an enrolled member of the Chippewa tribe, has done this exceedingly well. For instance, last year, including the courses she teaches, AIS offered 23 courses. Judy skillfully has built a core of faculty devoted to AIS and to its student constituency. This past year, we hired a new faculty member to teach American Indian History, and Old Main has approved a search for a specialist in American Indian Literature; both positions will strengthen AIS even further.

Perhaps most impressive about Judy's administrative abilities is her skill in forming off-campus relationships for her program. In addition to strong on-going ties with the Wind River Reservation, she has built connections with the Buffalo Bill Historical Center, Yellowstone National Park, and a number of tribal colleges.

Unlike few other A&S programs, AIS has a well-defined but quite heterogeneous constituency. No one should be surprised that the members of this constituency are not always of one mind. Judy's diplomatic skills are continually tested. Unfortunately, not all of us are fully sensitive to this key aspect of her job.

While reviewing her file, I came upon the following comment by a review committee: "Judy has managed to bring healing to a community that was in turmoil at the time of her hire, to bring order out of chaos, and to establish a program which brings excellent educational opportunities for our students and honor to the university. In achieving these successes, she has been a diplomat, and referee, a counselor, an innovator, and a visionary. She has been gracious, patient, understanding, strong, nurturing, resourceful, frank, fair, responsive, and in all things committed to excellence." I concur.

From A&S You Like It September 2003

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