Alumni Spotlight: Reinette Curry Helps UW’s Native Students Thrive

woman leaning on a railing indoors
Reinette Curry (Photo by Austin Jackson)

By Tamara Linse 

Reinette Curry helps UW’s Native American students thrive — something she comes by naturally as a director, as a tribal member and as a mother.

Curry is the director of UW’s Native American Education, Research and Cultural Center. Her tremendous energy not only established the center and supports all UW’s Native students, but it is also extending the center’s impact in ever-widening circles. “The center is crucial to the success of Native students,” says Curry. The center was just awarded the 2023 Outstanding Indigenous Student Support Program by the Indigenous Peoples Knowledge Community from the National Association of Student Personnel Administrators.

Located just across the street from Old Main, the center offers a safe space for Native students to study, relax and find community, as well as reaching out to the Wind River Reservation and beyond. It also educates non-Native students on Indigenous culture. The center opened its doors in 2017. At one time, Curry was the only staff member within the center, but she has recently been named the director and has full-time staff and student interns to support her efforts.

“The two things that drive me in this job are to manage this whole center and to be there for my Native students,” Curry says. “Now I’m actually seeing come to fruition some of the things that I’ve advocated for.”

Curry has a real drive to succeed and to lift up those around her. She is enrolled in the Northern Arapaho tribe but also has roots in Pyramid Lake Paiute and Northern Ute tribes, and one son is also Eastern Shoshone, and the other son is from the Crow tribe. Her parents, Ralph Curry and the late Becky Sage, were a huge inspiration for her, and they really emphasized higher education and provided support. “I owe a lot to the people before me,” Curry says.

Just as Curry was branching out from her home on the Wind River Reservation, her family was growing — she was pregnant with her eldest son. When she was expanding her horizons through education here at UW, her son was taking his first steps in the Union. “My whole undergraduate years were having him next to me, no matter what,” she says. “My whole adult life, I’ve been a mother.”

From UW, Curry earned a bachelor’s degree in elementary education with an emphasis in cultural diversity and a minor in American Indian studies, and then she earned a master’s degree in social work. She was named the Student of the Year in the UW Division of Social Work and the 2017 recipient of the Dr. Willena Stanford Commitment to Diversity Award.

Curry’s life is overflowing with her position at the center, with her accomplishments and with her family — her children Hudda, Rhaelle and Riquell Curry and Rylee Tendore. She and all the families continue to raise them together, as she truly believes it takes a village to raise children.

Now that son whom she took to class has grown up, plays basketball and is in college himself. In February, he and his high school sweetheart, Halle, had their first child, Hayzlee Bryant Redsun Curry. “I’m a grandma,” Curry says with a wide smile. “It’s come full circle.” And that son recently told her, “I’m not worried about being a young dad and also being a student because I have the best role model.”

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