Kelly LaChance ’96 grew up in rural Siletz, Oregon, a very small coastal community west of the upper Willamette Valley. She is a citizen of the Confederated Tribes of the Siletz and is proud of her Shasta and Dakubetede heritage, where her ancestors lived in the Ashland and Jacksonville area since time immemorial.
Kelly heard about SOU when she was on the other side of the mountains, attending Oregon Tech. Intrigued by SOU’s Native American Studies minor, she looked to transfer because of the small-town atmosphere of Ashland and being a non-traditional mother of two young children. It was also a good fit because of the support structure for families.
Once on campus, Kelly immersed herself into her studies and the Native American Student Union, where she helped with the annual spring pow wow, participated in the pow wow as a dancer and danced in various drum and dance exhibitions on and off campus. Her first year on campus, she helped with Native American month and organized a Native American fashion show, Native American storytelling and Native American poetry readings.
Her academic advisor, Dr. Jean Maxwell, was very supportive as Kelly worked on her interdisciplinary social science degree. “As a student, Dr. Maxwell really supported and encouraged me to research my Shasta heritage. I learned about my Great Grandfather, John Adams, who as a little boy, lived in the Rogue Valley and made the journey north because of removal, to the government reservation on the coast,” she said. Working with Dr. Maxwell and student services for her Capstone project, Kelly interviewed Native American students about their campus experiences and developed a Native American student services guide . “Student services for Native students were not visible, so I dedicated the guide to help future Native students. That is a legacy at SOU that I’m very proud of,” she added.
After earning her bachelor’s degree in social science and a minor in both Native American and women’s studies in 1996, Kelly started working for her tribe in various positions and finally, in education for over two years. She then worked in Southern Oregon for a number of years and transitioned to work at the University of Oregon for six years in an American Indian/Alaska Native (AI/AN) graduate teaching program. While working in Southern Oregon, she was appointed to a government to government tribal advisory group on AI/AN education at the Oregon Department of Education.
This service work extended into her position at the Lane Education Service District, where she worked with Native American students from K-12. Her service at the state level included committee work on updating the Oregon American Indian/Alaska Native student state plan and serving on a Native American language committee. She also served on Advisory Councils for three universities.
In 2008, Kelly earned her master’s degree in education from Colorado State University. She continued her education and is working towards a doctorate in educational methodology, policy and leadership at the University of Oregon and is nearly finished with her dissertation.
In April of 2020, Kelly was hired by the American Indian College Fund in Denver, Colorado, where she is the Tribal College/University (TCU) Student Success Program Officer. She works with five TCUs to increase enrollment, persistence and completion rates through systematic capacity building programming, which leads each TCU to develop a strategic enrollment management plan.
“SOU and the Native American Student Union provided me with leadership opportunities and my degree gave me the start in my career and my post-graduate education. I had great support from the faculty, the university and from the Native American Student Union. It was all a wonderful experience to attend college in my ancestral land.”
Learn more: American Indian College Fund