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Alumni Awards honor outstanding FLC graduates
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Alumni Awards honor outstanding FLC graduates

Alumni spotlight: Jourdan Bennett-Begaye (Athletic Training, '13)

A little over a decade after taking an accidental journalism course at Fort Lewis College, Jourdan Bennett-Begaye (Athletic Training, ’13) is the editor-in-chief of ICT (formerly Indian Country Today), a digital platform reporting on the Indigenous world. She’s the first female chief news executive and top editor of the 40-year-old newspaper and website.

“I’m young and a Native woman, so I have to trust and follow my instincts, standing my ground when a tough but right decision needs to be made as a newsroom leader,” she said. “Resiliency runs through my veins. I have a responsibility to tell Indigenous stories. I want to heal my people and myself through storytelling. Journalism possesses the power to make change.”

Bennett-Begaye grew up playing volleyball on the Navajo Nation in northwestern New Mexico. Despite motion sickness, she devoured books on the long drives between games. One day, she came home from fifth grade and asked her father, “What’s college?” He smiled and said she should go to Stanford.

“My parents always told us to go to school,” said Bennett-Begaye, who identifies as Kiyaa’áanii (The Towering House Clan), Mą’ii deeshgiizhinii (The Coyote Pass Clan of Jemez), Naakai dine’é (The Mexican Clan), and Ozei Táchii’nii (The Hopi with Red Running Into the Water Clan).President Tom Stritikus with the award winners.

Bennett-Begaye enrolled at Emory University in Georgia but missed home. In 2008, she transferred to FLC.

“Fort Lewis was the perfect school for me: close enough to home and far enough away to help me become my own person,” she said.

Bennett-Begaye declared a major in athletic training. She thought she’d attend medical school or become a physician’s assistant. She said juggling campus life with the course load was intense, with its heavy emphasis on science and hands-on practice.

“My professors exercised tough love that forced me to grow in a great way,” she recalled. “I grew as a person and as a professional, practicing how to reflect and lead. I learned to communicate complicated medical jargon with all sorts of people: peers, supervisors, physicians, high school athletic trainers, student-athletes, and their parents. I took a lot of constructive criticism and learned how to sift through the feedback.”

“Resiliency runs through my veins. I have a responsibility to tell Indigenous stories. I want to heal my people and myself through storytelling."

—Jourdan Bennett-Begaye

(Athletic Training, '13)

Every week, Bennett-Begaye and her classmates submitted journal write-ups on their cases, including observations and explorations behind why they chose certain prescriptions. She wrote well beyond the minimum word count, prompting her classmates to joke about her setting the standard too high. Bennett-Begaye loved the program but wanted to expand her studies beyond science. She signed up for News Media, which she misread as new media.

“I wanted to learn how to create blogs and websites, so when we were going over the syllabus on the first day, and I realized we’d be writing news stories, I was intimidated; I didn’t even read newspapers,” she laughed. “I told Dr. [Faron] Scott I’d made a mistake. She asked if I liked to read and write and said I should see what journalism was all about; she said she’d help me. I ended up really loving it. I love listening and learning about the world through other people’s perspectives. I like knowing why people make the decisions they do. Turns out journalism is suitable for my personality.”

After graduation, Bennett-Begaye enrolled in the master’s in journalism program at New York’s Syracuse University as part of the Newhouse Graduate Newspaper Fellowship for Minorities. She sharpened her skills working with the American Indian Journalism Institute and was awarded a fellowship with the Indigenous Journalists Association for intensive multimedia training.

She returned to New Mexico to teach journalism, theatre, and video production at her high school alma mater. Bennett-Begaye and a friend launched the Survival of the First Voices Festival, which inspired Native youth to use art and media to preserve their culture, represent their identities, and build a sense of pride in being Indigenous.

Bennett-Begaye serves on the IJA board of directors, dedicated to creating opportunities and providing resources and support for the next generation of journalists. She started as a reporter and producer at ICT in 2018 and was promoted every year after, moving into the editor position in January 2022.

“At ICT, we focus on the larger Indigenous populations in North America and around the world,” Bennett-Begaye explained. “We want to create bridges between all tribes and share stories from the Navajo Nation, for example, that could help someone in South Dakota, showing the bigger picture of what’s happening across the country. We want to lift the veil between Indigenous cultures and mainstream cultures.”

This fall, Bennett-Begaye received FLC’s Alumni Rising Star award, given to alumni who have positively impacted society through their work since graduating from FLC in the last decade.

“Fort Lewis wasn’t first on my list, but I’m so grateful I chose it as the place to receive my education,” she said. “It created the foundation for me and helped me become the person I am today.”

"Our distinguished alumni are at the heart of what we do, and they reflect Fort Lewis College and our commitment to excellence."

—Rachel Frederico,

alumni engagement officer

Bennett-Begaye joined other Alumni Awards recipients during this fall’s homecoming celebrations. The College honored Javier Read de Alaniz (Chemistry, ’99) as the Distinguished Alumni Award winner. Read de Alaniz found his niche in the Chemistry Department, researching alongside famed professor Ted Bartlett. Over the years, Read de Alaniz has earned many honors and grants, several Young Investigator awards, and the 2023 Copy Scholar Award from the American Chemical Society. He’s a professor in the Chemistry & Biochemistry Department at the University of California, Santa Barbara, and the associate director of the California Nanosystems Institute.

2023 award winnersGuy Pfalzgraff (History, ’70) received the Community Leadership Award for his lifetime of public service in Colorado’s rural communities, serving on several boards and committees around the state. He recently donated $100,000 to FLC’s History Department.

The Faculty and Staff Award for Service goes to an outstanding faculty or staff member who has excelled in building relationships with students and alumni. This year’s award winner is Bryant Liggett (English – Communication, ’98) for his decades-long devotion to FLC’s public radio station, KDUR.

Joslyn Lee“[Bryant] recognizes the immense potential that alumni possess in serving as valuable resources for our current students,” said nominator Kendra Gallego Reichle, director of Student Well-Being. ”By actively involving them, he imparts a sense of belonging, nurtures a love for music, and fosters a strong sense of community within our student body.”

Joslynn Lee (Chemistry – Biochemistry, ’06), an assistant professor in the Chemistry & Biochemistry Department, received the Service to FLC Award in recognition of her fearless dedication to the College’s reconciliation work and commitment to fostering a more inclusive and healing environment on Campus. Through her mentorship with students, she’s enhanced access to undergraduate research experiences for STEM students and helped secure the Colorado Outdoor Equity Grant, showcasing her passion for holistic education.

“The Alumni Engagement Office is thrilled about the revitalization of our Alumni Awards program,” said Rachel Frederico, alumni engagement officer of the Alumni Engagement Office. “Bringing back this program offers us the privilege to celebrate the achievements of our graduates. Our distinguished alumni are at the heart of what we do, and they reflect Fort Lewis College and our commitment to excellence. Each of these award winners serves as an inspiration to our students and the FLC community.”

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