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SAIO 50 for 50: Dr. Elizabeth “Betty” Parent

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This Week's Spotlight:  Dr. Elizabeth “Betty” Parent ('78, A.M. Anthropology, '84, Ph.D. Education)

Dr. Betty Parent

Dr. Parent is a person of many firsts. She was the first Native American on the editorial board of the Harvard Educational Review, the first Alaska Native woman to earn a Ph.D., the first Alaska Native woman to obtain tenure as a full professor, and the first professor in American Indian Studies at San Francisco State University.

Before getting her graduate degrees, Dr. Parent wrote for and served on the board of the Tundra Times, a state-wide newspaper that covered Alaska Native issues, and was the Fairbanks director of Head Start. She decided to pursue a master’s degree because “people with master’s degrees from God knows where were making all the decisions and unless I got a master’s degree I wasn’t going to be a part of that.”

Dr. Parent earned her master’s in Education Administration from Harvard in one year, then moved across the country to pursue a master’s and Ph.D. at Stanford. While a Stanford student, Dr. Parent was a lecturer in Native American Studies for three years at the University of California-Berkeley and then in American Indian Studies for the College of Ethnic Studies at San Francisco State, where she was offered an Assistant Professorship and eventually became department chair. Dr. Parent’s dissertation, The Educational Experiences of the Residents of Bethel, Alaska: A Historical Case Study, was a harsh critique of the Moravian mission school in Bethel. The Moravian Church reacted by calling her a “vitriolic, biased anthropologist.”

Dr. Parent hosted Reality, Mind & Language, a public broadcasting show on education, Native issues, and women’s issues and a bi-monthly radio show on Pasadena City College’s KPCC where she became known as the “Treaty Lady” because of her discussion of treaty rights issues.

Among her many other accolades, San Francisco State has recognized Dr. Parent’s tireless work on behalf of indigenous communities and mentorship of hundreds of indigenous students with the establishment of the Betty Parent Achievement Award. She is also an inducted member of the Alaska Women’s Hall of Fame. To current and future indigenous Stanford students, Dr. Parent encourages you to “Enjoy your time at Stanford. . . . Use your privilege. Use the privilege of having been there . . . Use their money to educate them.”

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Betty's Interview