Northern Michigan University physics major Biidaaban “Daabii” Reinhardt of Gwinn is one of 30 American Indian students nationwide selected to receive a Lighting the Pathway to Faculty Careers for Natives in STEM award from the American Indian Science and Engineering Society (AISES). The sophomore is in the Honors Program, president of the recently reactivated NMU AISES chapter and an active member of the Native American Student Association. Reinhardt is a citizen of the Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians. Her first name translates to “coming of dawn” in Anishinaabemowin.
Lighting the Pathways is a five-year pilot program funded by a $1.5 million grant from the National Science Foundation. It is aimed at boosting the number of AISES members in STEM disciplines (science, technology, engineering and mathematics), with the long-term goal of increasing the number of members who pursue STEM faculty positions at U.S. colleges and universities.
“Native Americans are one of the most underrepresented ethnicities in the STEM fields,” said Reinhardt. “There are not many Native role models among faculty. It’s important for youth to see someone who has succeeded via education. I’m hoping to blend my traditional values with modern education. It was so exciting to find out I was selected for this. I received the news at work and was trying really hard not to scream and cry with happiness.”
The award revolves around a mentorship with a faculty member from a related academic discipline. Reinhardt will meet her mentor at next week’s AISES national conference in Orlando. She also will receive stipends totaling $4,500 over two years and AISES will cover costs for travel expenses to attend research presentations, meetings and project-related events.
Reinhardt explained how she first became interested in physics. “I went to summer STEM camps for Native youth put on by the NMU Center for Native American Studies and Hannahville Indian School. April Lindala (NMU) and Rich Sgarlotti (Hannahville) collaborated to provide American Indian middle school students the opportunity to participate in leadership activities, service learning and learn more about life on a college campus. That’s how I was introduced to Dr. [Dave] Lucas in the physics department. Those camps made me realize the opportunities open to me. My main interests are applied physics, astrophysics and natural energy resources such as solar and wind.”
She also credits her Gwinn High School physics teacher and NMU adjunct instructor Darren Smith for enhancing her love of the STEM fields, along with Lindala and NMU English professor Gabriel Brahm for writing recommendation letters and offering guidance on the award application essay. Reinhardt was a student in a thought-provoking honors course taught by Brahm in the winter 2014 semester.
This is Reinhardt’s second scholarship from AISES. She previously received the A.T. Anderson Memorial award worth $2,000 over two semesters. She is the daughter of Tina Moses and Martin Reinhardt, both of whom work in the NMU Center for Native American Studies.