Wells First Northern Arapaho Endowment Scholar to Earn Ph.D. Degree at UW

June 2, 2008
Man honors woman in ceremony
UW Trustee James Trosper cloaks Vonda Wells of Kinnear with a ceremonial Native American blanket during an American Indian Studies Program celebration honoring graduates and scholarship recipients.

After many years of sacrifice and balancing studying, researching and writing, not to mention family life and a full-time job, Vonda Wells is the first Northern Arapaho Endowment scholarship recipient to earn a doctoral degree from the University of Wyoming.

She officially graduated in May during UW's spring commencement.

Wells, from Kinnear, earned her Ph.D. degree in curriculum and instruction. As a graduate assistant, she taught a human life span development course to undergraduate students as part of her assistantship.

After earning her B.S. in elementary education (1994) from the University of Great Falls in Montana, Wells worked for the Shoshone and Arapaho Head Start program in Fort Washakie on the Wind River Indian Reservation.

She served Head Start for seven years, first as a co-teacher, then as center director and later as education director. Returning to UW, Wells earned her M.A. (2002) in curriculum and instruction and also served as a Head Start Fellow in Washington, D.C.

Of Northern Arapaho and Blackfeet ancestry, Wells received Sky People Higher Education scholarship support while obtaining both her bachelor's and master's degrees. The Northern Arapaho Endowment supported Wells in obtaining her doctoral degree.

In addition to her responsibilities at work and as a student, Wells has four children -- daughters Kristal, Shila, and Shersa, and son Royal. She is the daughter of George and Imogene Wells.

The Northern Arapaho Endowment was created in 1987 by a $500,000 gift from the Northern Arapaho Tribe to UW. That gift was matched by the state of Wyoming to create a $1 million endowment that produces income for the annual scholarships. The endowment's current market value is more than $2 million. It has provided more than $1.35 million to 75 individuals, 44 of whom have earned degrees and 11 who are now enrolled, says John Nutter, assistant to the vice president in the UW Office of the Vice President for Student Affairs.

"This endowment was established to help students from the Northern Arapaho tribe gain formal knowledge, skills and abilities," Nutter says. "The spirit of the award assumes that the recipients have, as part of their ultimate goals, some direct participation, appropriate to their educational background, in activities that will further the common good of the Arapaho people."

For more information about the Northern Arapaho Endowment scholarships call Nutter at (307) 766-5123 or e-mail nutter@uwyo.edu.

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