2017 News

Buder scholars join faculty at universities in Alaska, Illinois

The Center for Social Development (CSD) congratulates Shanondora Billiot, PhD, and Jessica Black, PhD, on their new faculty positions at the University of Illinois School of Social Work and the University of Alaska Fairbanks, respectively.

Both recently earned their doctoral degrees from the George Warren Brown School of Social Work. They were recipients of a Kathryn M. Buder Fellowship, funded by the Brown School and CSD.

Black says the Buder Fellowship made it possible for her to focus solely on her studies, which she greatly appreciated “considering how rigorous the PhD in social work at WashU is.”

Black is a member of the Gwich’in Athabascan tribe in Alaska. She grew-up in Ft. Yukon and Nenana, two small Athabascan villages along the Yukon and Tanana Rivers. She is now back in Alaska as an assistant professor in UAF’s Department of Alaska Native Studies and Rural Development and Tribal Management. She’s also involved in several research projects focusing on well-being, local governance and natural resource management.

“The Buder Center and Center for Social Development faculty and staff dedicated countless hours and financial support to my professional development,” Black says, “whether it was support to a conference, editing written work, [or] pushing me to reach my highest potential.”

CSD funded Black’s and Billiot’s field research, which they conducted in their indigenous communities. Michael Sherraden, director of CSD, said Molly Tovar, director of the Kathryn M. Buder Center for American Indian Studies, “has been an anchor and tireless supporter of each Native PhD student.”

Billiot is a member of the United Houma Nation, located along the southeastern coast of Louisiana, which is losing land due to rising sea levels. In her dissertation, she explored connection to land, historical trauma, environmental change exposure, and health outcomes among a sample of her tribal community.

Her research found that environmental changes such as coastal erosion, pollution and hurricanes are increasing United Houma Nation members’ mental and physical health problems.

“Land is a viable resource to indigenous communities, both culturally and for future generations,” Billiot says, underscoring the need for more research into the effects of climate change and pollution on America’s indigenous peoples. She has joined the University of Illinois’ faculty in social work at Urbana-Champaign as an assistant professor.

Billiot and Black are among more than 160 Buder Scholar master’s and doctoral alumni now working across the United States, many of them in Indian Country.

CSD has partnered with the Buder Center since 2008 in supporting doctoral students. Information on how to apply for the program is available by clicking here.