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Sandra Boham is the new SKC Vice President for Academic Affairs

By Lailani Upham

Sandra Boham is the new SKC Vice President of Academic Affairs. Sandra Boham is the new SKC Vice President of Academic Affairs.

PABLO — She’s home to stay – this time.

Sandra Boham, enrolled Confederated Salish and Kootenai tribal member, is the new Salish Kootenai College Vice President of Academic Affairs. She has taken a journey to “gain and learn experience” for decades and is finally staking her tipi poles back on the Flathead Reservation.

Boham arrived on the SKC camp in January.

Boham, was raised in St. Ignatius and is also a military child. Her father, Roy Martin, originally from Kentucky, met her mom, Betty, many moons ago when he came on a trip with his Air Force buddy to see his girlfriend. Roy then met the girlfriend’s friend (Betty), who he immediately fell for, and eventually they were married and travelled the country as well.

However, the military life did not veer Boham from her roots, her mom seemed to keep the main post on the Flathead Reservation for the most part. Boham graduated high school from St. Ignatius.

Regardless of the jumps from institutions – Boham has always been groomed for education.

After graduation she headed down the road to the University of Montana and earned her B.A. in Sociology in 1982.

Before furthering her education, Boham put her degree into practice and taught math, English and reading at the Women’s Correctional Center in Warm Springs for year. After a year, home called her back and she taught basic education at Kicking Horse Job Corps for three years, while also teaching the same at the early days of SKC and giving instruction for GED preparations.

Her first service at SKC was nothing like it is now. There were no buildings. The classes were taught in any location the school could get a spot, like church basements or empty buildings or shared building locations, she described.

After working in a couple instruction positions at SKC she eventually moved into the Registrar as Admissions Officer from 1987 to 1989.

During this time Boham started working on a master’s degree in Adult and Higher Education at Montana State University in Bozeman during the summers.

She met her husband, Dr. Russell Boham of the Little Shell Chippewa tribe at MSU and they married in 1990.

The two landed jobs in California where they made their home for 15 years. Boham said she always had a longing for home, and it was her desire to return.

She lived and worked in Eureka, California at the College of the Redwoods as an Associate Professor; and for the Northern California Indian Development Council as an Employment Specialist.

She also worked at Humboldt State University as a Lecturer in Native American and Ethnic Studies for nearly eight years.

She said what kept her connected to home and culture was being able to travel and participate in powwows in California. Russell and Sandra’s four children: Kristi, Heather, Russell, and Tawnee, all danced and formed their own family drum, known at North Star Singers, she said.

In 2003, was her break for home, she took a job at SKC in the Upward Bound/Gear Up Department and a part-time lecturer in several Native Studies courses.

Just when she thought she was going to stay put, an opportunity opened up in Great Falls where she was able to deposit her wisdom, experience and education as the Director for American Indian Education for the Great Falls Public Schools from 2006 – 2014.

Her calling to Great Falls was much needed. She said one thing she noticed was that the Indian community there was closed off from one another. The family legacy of powwow singing and dancing came as a great service and connectivity to the students there she said. During their camp days in Great Falls, the Boham’s started drumming and singing classes for students and eventually 125 kids were singing and five drums were birthed.

Before picking up camp to return to Flathead, Boham said she and her husband helped mentor a young man to keep students singing and learning.

Currently, Boham is finishing up her doctoral degree in Education Leadership at UM and working endless hours to finish her dissertation: “The Relationship Between Intergenerational Educational Experiences, School Culture/Climate and Academic Success among American Indian High School Student in Off-Reservation/Urban High Schools in Montana.” The idea is on the backburner, however it may be published into a book she says.

Her expected graduation date is May 2014.

The Academic Vice President is the chief academic officer of the college and is responsible for evaluating, developing and implementing academic policy.

Her academic chief role doesn’t end at policy but flows into relationship too. As she might examine the creation of a new degree program(s), or organize curriculum committee meetings and discuss student learning strategies, she believes that everyone at the college should be involved in the process. “Creating a large team and looking at what we all do well and celebrate that is,” is what she thinks is key. She says from the maintenance to the President, there should be a “same page” focus in the professional development process – and the focus - the students: A plan the staff has been working on before her arrival she says.

She believes a tribal college is a foundational start for many Native students to achieve their educational journeys into what they purpose to do in life, but ultimately it is the spirit within each student to finish the race.

What is more, at the camp of SKC the strategy for a Native student she believes is building their confidence. “At a non-Native college that is non-existent,” she explains. “Being around other Native students brings a connection to family and culture, and students are best understood at a Native college, said Boham.

Regardless, of the support and talented staff on hand at SKC, Boham says, “At this place (SKC) you can do and be what you want. However, the only thing preventing you is yourself.”

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