Professional Programs

The focus of the Professional Program is “Leadership and Change.” AISES is dedicated to supporting its professional members in STEM, providing a network of Professional Chapters an annual Professional Awards Program to celebrate excellence in the field.

The Professional Program supports early, mid and executive professionals in STEM fields through professional development, career opportunities, networking and opportunities to mentor and support students in STEM.

Professional Programs

AISES Professional Awards Program

In recognition of the significant contributions American Indians and Alaska Natives (AI/AN) have made to the STEM disciplines, AISES conducts the Professional Awards Program. 2018 will be the 15th year recognizing the accomplishments of these individuals as leaders, innovators, and role models. AISES is currently seeking nominees for its Professional Awards in the following categories: Executive Excellence, Technical Excellence, Most Promising Engineer or Scientist and Blazing Flame. 



For more information or to submit a nomination vist:

Nominations must be submitted by May 25 at 11:59 pm MDT. The 2018 awards ceremony takes place during the AISES National Conference. 

2017 Awardees:

Executive Excellence:  Gary Burnette 

The nominee must be an experienced upper-level manager or a well-established engineer, scientist, professional, or academician who has significant department and budget responsibilities.

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Technical Excellence: Ginger Hernandez

The nominee must have made a significant contribution to science, engineering or technology by having designed, developed, managed or assisted in the development of a product, service, system or intellectual property.

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Most Promising Engineer or Scientist: Thomas Reed

The nominee must be a professional engineer or scientist with less than five years experience after earning his/her last degree. The candidate’s early technical contributions should already indicate a promising career.

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Blazing Flame: Brandon Polingyumptewa

As embedded in the AISES logo, the Blazing Flame Award is presented to an individual who blazes a path for Native Americans in STEM careers.  This award recognizes individuals with 10+ years of professional experience with significant accomplishments in advancing STEM education and careers. The nominee may or may not have a technical background.

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AISES Professional of the Year: William Tiger

The AISES Professional of the Year Award is presented for overall leadership and technical achievement.  This individual is selected from among the top candidates submitted in all categories; therefore, individual nominations are not accepted for this award.

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Blazing Flame

2016: Marie Capitan

The Professional of the Year:

2016: Karletta Chief, PhD
2015: Pat Gwin
2014: Dr. A. D. Cropper, Kalinago Carib
2013: Randall McKee, Cherokee
2012: Jeff Kinneeveauk, Inupiat Eskimo
2011: Jerry R. Roberson, D.V.M., Ph.D., Cherokee 
2010: David Daniel, Cherokee
2009: Kimberley Oldham, Musgogee Nation
2008: Jason Cummings, Ph.D., Lumbee/Coharie 
2007: Lorena Hegdal, Inupiaq Eskimo
2006: Frank Martinez, Navajo
2005: Nancy Jackson, Ph.D., Seneca Nation of New York
2004: Richard Kevin “Savik” Glenn, Inupiaq Eskimo

Executive Excellence:

2016: Richard Johnson
2015: Mel Yawakie
2014: Mike Laverdure, Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa
2013: Robbie E. Hood, Cherokee
2012: Linda Benson Kusumoto, Tsimshian Nation, Annette Island, Metlakatla
2011: Terry-Lee Braun, Seneca Nation
2010: Not awarded
2009: Olav Kjono, Mohawk
2008: CAPT. Jeffrey Trussler, Cherokee
2007: Gary Bishop, White Earth Ojibway
2006: Ray Hanes, Ph.D., Cherokee
2005: Johnpaul Jones, Choctaw/Cherokee
2004: Richard Stephens, Pala Band of Mission Indians

Technical Excellence:

2016: Tara Astigarraga
2015: Sarah Lauff 
2014: Joe Connolly, Haudenosaunee of the Onondaga Nation-Wolf Clan from Six Nations Reserve of the Grand River
2013: Lawrence Short Bull, Rosebud Sioux
2012: Christopher "Scott" Nordahl Ph.D., Doyon Limited, Alleut Alaskan Native
2011: Tony Ferguson, Citizen Band of Potowatomi
2010: Karen McDaniel, Navajo
2009: Robert Harper, Ph.D., Mississippi Choctaw
2008: Jacklin Adams, Wyandot
2007: Stanley Atcitty, Ph.D., Navajo
2006: Chris J. Cornelius, Ph.D., Oneida
2005: Mark Hakey, Abanaki tribe, St. Francis-Sokoki Band
2004: Not awarded

Most Promising Engineer or Scientist:

2016: Michael Dockry,PhD
2015: Franklin Dollar 
2014: Mitchell Martin, Cherokee
2013: Kristina Halona, Navajo
2012: Lauren M. Wolf, Choctaw Tribe of Oklahoma
2011: Benjamin Mar, Cherokee
2010: Karletta Chief, Ph.D., Navajo
2009: Not awarded
2008: Nathaniel Todea, Navajo
2007: Tara Astigarraga, Choctaw
2006: Bevan Baas, Ph.D., Navajo
2005: John DeBassige, Ojibwe
2004: Aaron Thomas, Ph.D., Navajo  



About the AISES Ely S. Parker Award

The Ely S. Parker Award is the highest honor bestowed by AISES, given in honor of a man who was the first recognized American Indian scientist/engineer.  Parker made many civil engineering contributions and was a Chief of the Seneca and a Union Army General.

The purpose of the award is to recognize those Indian leaders who most clearly embody AISES’ mission and goals through their achievements and contributions to science, technology, engineering, and math.  Members of the Board of Directors, officers, staff and corporate sponsors are not eligible.

Eligibility Criteria

The nominee must be an experienced American Indian or Alaska Native professional who has or has made significant contributions in STEM education or the STEM workforce.  AISES membership is not required.  The nominee will be evaluated on the following criteria:

  • 1. Contribution to and impact on the American Indian/Alaska Native community STEM community;
  • 2. Contribution to and impact on the American Indian/Alaska Native community educational community;
  • 3. Uniqueness and innovativeness of his/her contributions;
  • 4. Scope and level of responsibilities;
  • 5. Ability to overcome obstacles facing minorities in his/her field;
  • 6. Potential as a role model; and
  • 7. Overall quality of the nomination package

Selection and Notification

The AISES Board of Directors will make a selection based upon the criteria listed above.
The awardee and nominating individual will be notified in early-August that the candidate has been chosen by AISES to receive the Ely S. Parker award.  The awardee will be invited to accept the award at the 2017 National AISES Conference, which will be held September 21-23, 2017, in Denver, CO. 

Submitting the Nomination Package

E-Mail the signed application form along with a nomination package to Debbie Derryberry at
Faxed applications and nomination packages will not be accepted.

Nominations must be received by Midnight (MDT) on July 7, 2017.

Access the Nomination Form


1983 - A T (Andy) Anderson, Chemical Engineering (Seneca) - Awarded Posthumously
1984 - Phil Stevens, Engineering (Oglala Sioux)
1985 - Mary Ross, Mathematics & Aerospace Engineering (Cherokee)
1986 - Al Qöyawayma, Mechanical Engineering (Hopi)
1987 - Phil Lane Sr., Civil Engineering (Yankton Sioux)
1988 - Tom Dawson, Electrical Engineering (Cherokee)
1988 - Don Ridley, Aerospace Engineering (Shoshone)
1989 - Dr. Lois Steele, Medicine (Assiniboine)
1990 - Dr. George Blue Spruce, Dentist (Pueblo)
1992 - Fred Begay, Ph.D., Physics (Navajo)
1993 - Dr. Taylor MacKenzie, Medicine (Navajo)
1994 - Dwight Gourneau, Electrical Engineering & Physics (Chippewa)
1995 - Cliff Poodry, Ph.D., Biology (Seneca)
1996 - Fred Cooper, Ph.D., Civil Engineering (Shoalwater Bay)
1997 - Jane Mt. Pleasant, Ph.D., Agronomy & Soil Science (Tuscarora)
1998 - Dick French, Forestry (Yakama) - Awarded Posthumously
1999 - Robert Megginson, Ph.D., Mathematics (Lakota) 
2000 - Jim May, Ph.D., Engineering/Business/ Library Science (Cherokee) 
2001 - Carolyn Elgin, Ed.D., Educator (Choctaw) 
2002 - Dr. Judith Kaur, Medicine (Choctaw/ Cherokee) 
2003 - Carole Gardipe, Geology, (Penobscot) 
2004 - Jerry Elliott, Physics, (Osage/Cherokee) 
2005 - George Thomas, Engineering, (Cherokee) 
2007 - Governor Joseph Garcia (Ohkay Owingeh) 
2008 - Norbert S. Hill Jr. (Oneida) 
2009 - Sandra Begay-Campbell (Navajo) 
2010 - Dr. Robert Whitman (Navajo) 
2011 - Everett Chavez (Kewa Pueblo) 
2012 - Dr. Henrietta Mann (Cheyenne) 
2013 - Bessie Newman Spicer (Navajo) 
2014 - Dr. Jason Younker (Coquille) 
2015 - Dr. Bret Benally-Thompson (White Earth Band of Ojibwe)
2016 - Dr. Robin Wall Kimmerer (Citizen Potawatomi Nation)


Professional Chapter Awards Program

AISES’ goal is to assist professional chapters in building and strengthening chapters to meet the AISES Mission and to encourage chapters to increase membership, build on current strengths and develop leadership among chapter members. The Professional Chapter Awards Program allows chapters to identify their strengths and recognize the accomplishments of their fellow chapters.

2015 Professional Chapter Award Recipients


To apply for the 2017 Professional Chapter of the Year award please see the criteria and application here

Deadline: September 8, 2017

This year, ALL registered professional chapters are invited to apply.

Application Process:

All application packets must adhere to the application guidelines:

  1. AISES Professional Chapter Awards Application;
  2. Cover letter summarizing qualifications of award written by Chapter President;
  3. Multi-media presentation. (1-minute or less)

All information submitted in the application should be based on previous year’s activities.  No supplemental material will be accepted (i.e., newsletters, brochures, etc.).

Evaluation of Applications:

Criteria to keep in mind when completing the application process and compiling your summary of activities/events are:

  • How effective is your chapter’s program in which you are applying for recognition?
  • Who does it impact?
  • How unique are the strategies/plans your chapter has designed and implemented?
  • What is the percentage of improvement from previous years?
  • How can other chapters benefit from these strategies and ideas?

To apply for the 2017 Professional Chapter of the Year awards please see the criteria and application here

Deadline: September 8, 2017

If you have any questions regarding the Professional Chapter of the Year awards you can contact Lisa Paz, Director of Membership, at 

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Looking For a Few Good Mentors

Recently, AISES received a $1.5 million grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF), and mentoring is a big part of it. The program, called Lighting the Pathways to Faculty Careers for Natives in STEM, is designed to boost the number of AISES members in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). The long-term goal is to increase the representation of those members who pursue faculty positions in STEM disciplines at U.S. colleges and universities. The grant includes full-service mentoring to student participants. So clearly, we need mentors.

Those who sign up and become mentors as part of this special program are eligible to attend the AISES National Conference in Orlando, Florida, November 13-15. Your conference fee and travel expenses will be waived as part of the NSF grant.

How does an Online Mentoring Relationship Work?
  • Most of this interaction will take place via e-mail and other web-related tools or face-to-face, as appropriate.
  • Decide from the start what kind of support will be most useful—specific feedback related to finding faculty positions in STEM disciplines, general career advice, information on higher studies, technical information, personal encouragement, and so on.
  • Commitments of at least six months to one year are best to ensure that the mentee is able to fully benefit from the relationship.
What are Mentor Expectations?
  • Mentor should have experience in a faculty position in a STEM discipline, preferably at a U.S. college, university, or tribal college.
  • Take responsibility to initiate the relationship.
  • Set aside time for the mentoring process and honor all appointments.
  • Provide honest and timely feedback to your mentee.
  • Provide opportunities for the mentee to talk about concerns and ask questions.
  • Above all, LISTEN.

If you have questions, please contact Kathy DeerInWater, Director of Strategic Initiatives & Research at  

Career Opportunities

Through AISES members are connected with employers seeking to hire in STEM fields. AISES members have access to AISES job board. Additionally, by signing up for AISES monthly E-Opportunities Update, you will receive information about job postings, scholarships, internships and other STEM opportunities.

AISES Job Board

Posting jobs on the AISES website enables employers to advertise opportunities within their organizations to AISES’ top-talent membership of professionals, students, educators, and others in the STEM fields.

Access the Job Board

AISES Annual Leadership Summit 

For more information on the most recent AISES Leadership Summit visit:

AISES’ Leadership Summit is aimed at providing Native higher education students and AISES professionals with in-depth professional development workshops and networking opportunities. Multiple sessions engage participants on such personal and professional development topics as “Maintaining Cultural Identity” to “Change Management: Managing Personal Change” and “Bridging Native Tradition within STEM.”

The Leadership Summit also offers networking opportunities for early to mid-career level professionals and Native students in STEM and fosters the matching of STEM professionals with STEM students for mentoring. Studies prove that building peer support networks and providing positive role models, mentors, and career development programs have profound effects on minority college students in STEM and, we all know, that it’s important for professionals too!  This is why the Leadership Summit will focus on providing positive role models, training and matching STEM professionals as mentors with mentees, professional development workshops, and networking opportunities not only with peers, but with other Native students and professionals.

The major focus of the Leadership Summit is to build the skill and aptitude levels of AISES members in the realm of professional and career development- to better prepare them to attain and excel at jobs and careers in STEM fields.

Goals of the Summit include:

  • Increasing the skill and aptitude level of AISES members in professional and career development.
  • Developing AISES professional members as role models for the AISES college and graduate students.
  • Providing Native college and graduate students with support and building their confidence to transition to the STEM workforce.


AISES National Conference 

Held annually since 1978, the AISES National Conference is a one-of-a-kind, three-day event convening high school juniors and seniors, college and graduate students, teachers, workforce professionals, corporate partners, and all members of the “AISES family.”  The AISES National conference has become the premier event for Native American Science, Engineering & Math (STEM) professionals and students attracting over 1,600 attendees form across the country.

Here are nine reasons why this is a “must-do” event.

  1. Networking. Offering cutting-edge thought on important current STEM issues, excellent career resources, and traditional cultural activities, the AISES National Conference is unlike any other STEM conference you’ll attend.
  2. Community. With 1,800 participants in 2010, there is something of a "reunion" quality to the AISES National Conference, where even newcomers feel they are coming into a "family" setting, and where our deep-seated commitment to personal relationships can be bolstered.
  3. Deeper Discovery. The conference provides thought-provoking and illuminating learning through concurrent sessions and special professional development workshops.
  4. Employment.   AISES' National Conference offers the largest career fair in Indian Country, with many companies and agencies hiring on the spot, and others looking to identify talent for future recruitment.
  5. Educational Resources. In addition to the professional development tracks and workshops, AISES’ National Conference opportunities to showcase academic research and study as well as connections to graduate, internship, fellowship and career opportunity.
  6. Indigenous and Elder Wisdom. Offering blessings, insights, and wisdom throughout the event, AISES’ National Conference offers a unique perspective on ways tradition and STEM can be effectively bridged in the 21st century. Our Council of Elders helps remind us where we come from and what we need to hold onto in order to live a life that is not just meaningful, but full of meaning.
  7. Welcoming Atmosphere. The AISES conference offers a sense of community and "family" that can sustain your spirit as many of us venture far from our communities to navigate our educational and career paths.
  8. Real-Time. Nothing beats the face-to-face value of conference attendance, not only for networking and mentoring, but also when it comes to the fun and affirmation of the social events, awards ceremonies, and traditional events such as the Powwow.
  9. Nice Price. Take a look at other conference registration fees and you'll find that AISES' National Conference is a good deal.
  10. Inspiration. The presence of so many young Natives, educators, and professionals gathered for good purpose is uplifting, sustaining, and joyous.

AISES Regional Conferences 

AISES’ Regional Conferences take place every spring and provide an opportunity for AISES College and Professional Chapters to gather and share information, form partnerships, and to network with each other and with selected presenters and partners.

Each regional conference has a number of informative sessions and activities for both college and high school students. Among the activities provided are mini career fairs, poster presentations, and engineering competitions. AISES’ student representatives and the host chapters for the following year are selected at the regional conferences.

Local and national professionals within a variety of fields provide workshops, seminars, and discussion groups about a wide variety of topics. Generally, each Regional Conference host develops a theme or focus area for the Regional Conference (environmental, bridging native cultures with science, etc.).

The host chapter for the following spring’s regional conference is determined during the Regional Conference held each spring.

Chapters interested in hosting the regional conference indicate their interest in hosting and make a verbal presentation regarding their resources, planning, and ability to host the conference. Each college chapter in "Good Standing" is allowed one vote; the majority of votes determines the location of the regional conference.  

Visit the events section to find upcoming Regional Conferences near you. 


Corporate Advisory Council

AISES’ Corporate Advisory Council (CAC) is a professional association of corporate representatives who are who support AISES in meet its mission of increasing the number of American Indians in STEM. The CAC provides industry advice and counsel for the AISES Chief Executive Officer and the Board of Directors by:

  • Providing scholarships, internship programs and employment opportunities.
  • Participating in and supporting AISES events through sponsorships, presentations and providing career information and resources.
  • Supporting student and professional chapters in their local areas.
  • Providing industry expertise and guidance related to current/projected employment trends and needs.
  • Developing support for AISES consistent with individual company capabilities, including financial contributions, in-kind gifts and human resources as appropriate.
  • Assisting AISES in fundraising efforts through networking and participation.
  • Facilitating effective public relations for AISES activities via coverage in company publications, trade journals, etc.

If you are interested in joining the Corporate Advisory Council, please contact Kellie Jewett-FernandezDirector of Business and Program Development.