NCRE Scholars

Cohort 11 (2022-2023)

Cassidy Armstrong

Cassidy Armstrong (Muscogee [Creek] Nation)

Phd Student, Oklahoma State University

Cassidy Armstrong is a citizen of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation and is currently a doctoral student in the Clinical Psychology program at Oklahoma State University (OSU). They grew up in Texas and completed their Bachelor's degree in Psychology at Oklahoma State University in 2020. In their free time, Cass enjoys spending time in nature, cooking, curling up with a good book, being active, and traveling.

Currently, Cass is a member of the Cultivating Opportunities that Lead to Equity (COLE) Lab at OSU and works under the mentorship of Dr. Ashley Cole. Cass's research broadly focuses on health behaviors and health inequities among Native populations from both resilience and risk perspectives, with specific emphases on the intergenerational transmission of trauma, historical trauma, and substance use, centering on resilience and protective factors. Cass uses mixed methods in research to incorporate qualitative and quantitative perspectives and has an interest in expanding their knowledge in Indigenous research methodologies to inform their future career path. 


Cole, A. B., Armstrong, C. M., Giano, Z. D., & Hubach, R. D. (2022). An update on ACEs domain frequencies across race/ethnicity and gender in a nationally representative sample. Child Abuse & Neglect.

Cole, A. B., Armstrong, C. M., Rhoades-Kerswill, S., Lopez, S. V., & Elm, J. (2021). Suicide among American Indian/Alaska Native populations. In E. Jeglic, & R. Miranda (Eds.), Handbook of youth suicide prevention: Integrating research into practice. Springer. 

Graziosi, M., Armstrong, C., Cole, A. B., & Reilly, E. E. (2021). The spiritual dimensions of American Indian life: Considerations for clinical practice. Behavior Therapist. 

Heather Jean Gordon

Heather Sauyaq Jean Gordon, PhD (Iñupiaq-Nome Eskimo Community)

Research Scientist II, Child Trends

Dr. Heather Sauyaq Jean Gordon is Iñupiaq and a member of the Nome Eskimo Community. Her Iñupiaq name, Sauyaq, was gifted to her by her grandmother (Mary Jean Kaguna Yenney) to honor the passing of her youngest sister (Margaret “Peggy” Sauyaq Perry). Sauyaq means drum, and Heather works as a researcher and advocate for Indigenous Peoples, lifting up Indigenous voices like the heartbeat of the drum. Heather has a BA in Race and Ethnic Studies (University of Redlands, CA), an MS in Sociology and Community and Environmental Sociology (University of Wisconsin-Madison), and a PhD in Indigenous Studies with a concentration in Indigenous Sustainability (University of Alaska Fairbanks). In her free time, Heather enjoys spending time with family, practicing her subsistence culture, and reading. She was born and raised just outside beautiful Homer, Alaska on her grandmother's reindeer ranch. 

Heather currently works as a Research Scientist II at Child Trends doing work in partnership with Indigenous communities to support the wellbeing of Indigenous children, youth, and families. She came to Child Trends from the Division of Program Evaluation and Planning at the Administration for Native Americans, a part of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) where she conducted project evaluations, served on Executive Order committees on equity issues, and served as a subject matter expert on working with Indigenous people. In that capacity she worked with the Interagency Arctic Research Policy Committee (IARPC) on drafting the Arctic Research Plan (ARP) 2022-2026 and with the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy on documents and work around Indigenous Knowledge. Heather's additional roles include: 1) diversity, equity, inclusion, and justice co-lead for the youth development program at Child Trends; 2) adjunct faculty in the graduate measurement and evaluation program at American University; and 3) Board Member at the Arctic Research Consortium of the United States (2023-25).

Dr. Gordon’s current work looks at Indigenous culture as a protective factor from colonization and historical trauma, missing and murdered Indigenous relatives, how to work with Indigenous Peoples in research, sustainability, futures research, climate change, food security, and subsistence rights in Alaska. She seeks to continue participatory work that brings voices often not heard to the forefront by working with Tribes and Indigenous organizations to produce mutually beneficial research that not only benefits  Indigenous communities but informs policy, decision-makers, and granting organizations.


Gordon, H. S. J., Ross, J. A., Bauer-Armstrong, C., Moreno, M., Byington, R., & Bowman, N. (2023). Integrating Indigenous Traditional Ecological Knowledge of land into land management through Indigenous-academic partnerships. Land Use Policy, 125, 106469.

Gordon, H.S.J. (2022). Alaska Native subsistence rights: Taking an anti-racist de-colonizing approach to land management and ownership for our children and generations to come. Societies 12(3), 72. 

Gordon, H. S. J., & Datta, R. (2021). Indigenous communities defining and utilizing self-determination as an individual and collective capability. Journal of Human Development and Capabilities, 23(2), 182-205. 

Gordon, H. S. J. (2021). Ethnographic futures research as a method for working with Indigenous communities to develop sustainability indicators. Polar Geography 44(4), 233-254. 

Gordon, H. S. J. (2017). Building relationships in the Arctic: Indigenous communities and scientists. In G. Fondahl & G. Wilson (Eds.), Northern sustainabilities: Understanding and addressing change in the circumpolar world (pp. 237-252). Dordrecht: Springer.

Nicole Reed

Nicole Reed, MPH (Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma)

Project Director, University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus

Nicole Reed was born and raised in Broken Bow, Oklahoma and is a descendant of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma. She graduated from Oklahoma State University with a BS in Health Education and Promotion, and later earned a Master’s degree in Public Health. She is currently attending the University of Colorado, Colorado School of Public Health as a candidate for her Doctor of Public Health. When not working or studying, she enjoys snowboarding, hiking, and spending quality time with her partner and dog, Averi.   

Currently, Nicole is the Project Director for Native WYSE (women, young, strong, empowered) CHOICES research team at the University of Colorado's Centers for American Indian and Alaska Native Health. This project is an mHealth intervention via phone app to help reduce alcohol exposed pregnancies amongst urban Native young women and to help them make the choices that are the best for them and their future goals. Previously, she was a grant coordinator for Oklahoma State University’s Community Wellness Programs to help reduce the non-medical use of prescription drugs in Tribal communities through policy, prescription drug take-back programs, and community awareness. Her research interests include adolescent Indigenous health, sexuality-related health disparities, the intersectionality between sexual health, and ATOD use.


Reed, N.D., Peterson, R., Ghost Dog, T., Kaufman, C.E., Kelley, A., & Craig Rushing, S. (2022). Centering Native youths’ needs and priorities: Findings from the 2020 Native Youth Health Tech Survey. American Indian and Alaska Native Mental Health Research, 29(3), 1-17. 

Boland, S.E., Homdayjanakul, K. J., Reed, N.D., Wesner, C., Kaufman, C.E. Jackson, L., & James, K.A. (2021). Addressing the cycle of inaction: A DrPH student perspective on the decolonization of public health. Harvard Public Health Review Journal, 35.

Tuitt, N.R., Shrestha, U., Reed, N.D., Moore, R. S., Sarche, M., & Kaufman, C.E. (2022). Virtual research with urban Native young women: Cautionary tales in the time of a pandemic. Progress in Community Health Partnerships: Research, Education, and Action, 16(2 Suppl), 77.

Meena Richardson

Meenakshi Richardson, MPH (Haliwa-Saponi Tribe)

PhD Student, Washington State University

Meenakshi is a citizen of the Haliwa-Saponi Tribe, born in Virginia and raised in the Pacific Northwest. Meenakshi received an MPH with a focus on community health education from Bastyr University. Prior to becoming a graduate student in the Prevention Science doctoral program at Washington State University, she was serving tribal and urban Indian communities through health and human services, Indigenous informed systems of care and research, as well as integrating Traditional Indian Medicine practices into direct services.

Meenakshi focuses on the study and practice of cultural teachings in relation to Western praxis, specifically substance use and suicide, to identify and inform community-based prevention and intervention strategies. She aims to examine how risk and protective factors are associated with behavioral health outcomes at different social and ecological levels. She has managed and coordinated research projects and service programs focused on suicide, homelessness, substance use, youth resilience, and gender-based violence prevention. Currently, she is a collaborator on several research projects, including a cultural adaptation and pilot study of a caregiving intervention, working with families with young children in a tribal community to minimize toxic stress and strengthen caregiver-child attachment. She also collaborates with clinicians and practitioners focused on coalition building, anti-racism education, multi-generational stress and coping, and the development of culturally grounded interventions and prevention modalities among Indigenous communities.


Richardson, M., Big-Eagle, T. & Waters, S. F. (2022). A systematic review of trauma intervention adaptions for Indigenous caregivers and children: Insights and implications for reciprocal collaboration. Psychological Trauma: Theory, Research, Practice, and Policy

Cohort 10 (2021-2023)

Alexis Merculief Headshot

Alexis Merculief (Aleut)

Phd Candidate, Oregon State University

Alexis is an Aleut tribal member and a current fifth-year doctoral candidate in the Human Development and Family Studies program at Oregon State University. Alexis grew up in Washington State and earned her Bachelor's degree in Psychology at Seattle Pacific University in 2013. Alexis then spent several years as an education advocate, social worker, and youth program manager supporting Native children and families in the Seattle area before returning to graduate school in Oregon. For fun, Alexis enjoys hiking, road trips, trying out new recipes, and competing with her trivia team, the Quizzly Bears.

Alexis' research centers on how early childhood executive function skills (EF) influence school readiness and other future health outcomes, specifically for children from underserved communities. Alexis is also interested in how adverse built and social environments (including aspects of neighborhood poverty, exposure to environmental toxins, and experiences of social isolation and discrimination) may influence EF in early childhood. Importantly, her work explores the protective influence of community and cultural resilience factors on EF in the presence of these adverse environments. Alexis hopes to uplift Native communities with her work by using her research to demonstrate how indigenous cultural practices and strong indigenous or tribal identity can predict healthy development in childhood and beyond. In addition, she hopes to use her research to help communities define and measure typical constructs of healthy development (e.g., self-regulation or executive function skills) in ways that are culturally meaningful and relevant to them.


McClelland, M.M., Gonzales, C.R., Cameron, C.E., Geldhof, G.J., Bowles, R.P, Nancarrow, A.F., Merculief, A., & Tracy, A. (2021). The head-toes-knees-shoulders revised: Links to academic outcomes and measures of EF in young children. Frontiers in Psychology, 12, 1-14.

Gonzales, C., Merculief, A., McClelland, M.M., & Ghetti, S. (2022). The development of uncertainty monitoring during kindergarten: Change, and longitudinal relations with executive function and vocabulary in children from low‐income backgrounds. Child Development, 93(2), 524-539

Cary Waubanascum HeadshotCary Waubanascum, MSW, PhD (Oneida Nation citizen, Menominee, Forest County Potawatomi, Stockbridge-Munsee)

Assistant Professor, University of Wisconsin - Green Bay

Dr. Cary Waubanascum is a member of the Oneida Nation of Wisconsin, Wakeny^ta (Turtle Clan), with ancestral roots in the Menominee, Forest County Potawatomi, and Stockbridge-Munsee Band of Mohican Nations of Wisconsin. She is an Assistant Professor in the Social Work Professional Programs at the University of Wisconsin – Green Bay. In July 2021, she earned a doctorate from the School of Social Work at the University of Minnesota – Twin Cities in Mni Sota Makoce. Cary is an Aknulha (Mother/Aunty) to her son, daughter, and many nephews. Along with her husband, Lance, Cary and her family enjoy playing board games, going to the movies, and going on new adventures. 

Cary’s research broadly focuses on decolonization in social work and reclaiming Indigenous lifeways. Her dissertation, titled “This is how we show up for our relatives: Understanding how Indigenous relative caregivers embody traditional kinship to resist the colonial child welfare system,” uncovered specific forms of ongoing colonialism perpetuated by the modern child welfare system. It also highlights the knowledge of Indigenous relative caregivers who are living and passing on their kinship knowledge and practices to resist child welfare systems and protect Indigenous children from ongoing colonialism and removal. Cary’s research is grounded in Indigenous research methodologies, knowledge, and practice, which aims to reclaim and strengthen Indigenous kinship for healing, prevention, and healthy Indigenous futures. Her work has implications for decolonization for Tribes, child welfare, and social work practice, policy, and education. 


Waubanascum, C. (2021). This is how we show up for our relatives”: Understanding how Indigenous relative caregivers embody traditional kinship to resist the colonial child welfare system. [Unpublished doctoral dissertation]. University of Minnesota – Twin Cities.

Waubanascum, C., Haight, W., Glesener, D., Day, P., Bussey, B., & Nichols, K. (2022). The Center for Regional and Tribal Child Welfare Studies: Students’ experiences of an Anishinaabe-centered social work education program. Children and Youth Services Review, 136.

Johnston-Goodstar, K., Waubanascum, C., & Eubanks, D. (In press). Human Services for Indigenous Futures. In Bauerkemper, J. & Webster, R. (Eds.), Tribal Administration Handbook

Haight, W., Waubanascum, C., Glesener, D., Day, P., Bussey, B., & Nichols, K. (2020). The Center for Regional and Tribal Child Welfare Studies: Systems change through a relational Anishinaabe worldview. Children and Youth Services Review, 119, 105601. 

Haight, W., Waubanascum, C., Glesener, D., Day, P., Bussey, B., & Nichols, K. (2019). The Center for Regional and Tribal Child Welfare Studies: Reducing disparities through Indigenous social work education. Children and Youth Services Review, 100, 156-166.

Haight, W., Waubanascum, C., Glesener, D., & Marsalis, S. (2018). A scoping study of Indigenous child welfare: The long emergency and preparations for the next seven generations. Children and Youth Services Review, 93, 397-410.

Lauren White HeadshotLauren White, MSW (Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma)

PhD Student, University of Michigan

Lauren White is a citizen of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma, and she grew up playing outside and gardening with her family on the post-removal lands of the Choctaw Nation in Southeastern Oklahoma. As a young adult, Lauren moved to Seattle where she met her husband, Travis, and spent almost 10 years working in research administration and earning an MPH in Epidemiology at the University of Washington. Currently, she lives with her husband and two dogs in Ypsilanti, Michigan, as she completes her PhD in Social Work and Social Psychology at the University of Michigan.

Lauren's research focuses on strengths-based interventions, especially those centering self-determination for Native people through the development and implementation of interventions for anxiety, depression, and suicide prevention. Her current work is focused on interventions that expand upon clinical approaches through culturally responsive and community-led upstream interventions for adolescent suicide prevention. Lauren uses Mixed Methods in her research and is excited about combining qualitative, quantitative, and Indigenous theories of rigor in her research partnerships with Native tribes and organizations. Her career goal is to serve in a position teaching and mentoring Native students and conducting research that partners with rural and Indigenous communities to spark institutional changes in the way we tackle mental health. 


Kuhn, N., Sarkar, S., White, L. A., Hoy, J., McCray, C., & Lefthand-Begay, C. (2020). Decolonizing risk communication: Indigenous responses to COVID-19 using social media. Journal of Indigenous Social Development, 9(3), 193-213.

Kapos, F. P., White, L. A., Schmidt, K. A., Hawes, S. E., & Starr, J. R. (2020). Risk of non-syndromic orofacial clefts by maternal rural-urban residence and race/ethnicity: A population-based case-control study in Washington State 1989-2014. Paediatric and
Perinatal Epidemiology, 35(3), 292-301. 

Rogers, L. O., Kiang, L., White, L. A., Calzada, E. J., Umaña-Taylor, A. J., Byrd, C., ... & Whitesell, N. (2020). Persistent concerns: Questions for research on ethnic-racial identity development. Research in Human Development, 17(2-3), 130-153.

Williams, C. D., Byrd, C. M., Quintana, S. M., Anicama, C., Kiang, L., Umaña-Taylor, A. J., Calzada, E.J., Gautier, M. P. Ejsi, K., Tuitt, N. R., Martinez-Fuentes, S., White, L. A., Marks, A., Rogers, L. O., & Whitesell, N., (2020). A lifespan model of ethnic-racial identity. Research in Human Development, 17(2-3), 99-129. 

Trout, L., McEachern, D., Mullany, A., White, L. A., & Wexler, L. (2018). Decoloniality as a framework for Indigenous youth suicide prevention pedagogy: Promoting community conversations about research to end suicide. American Journal of Community Psychology, 62(3-4), 396-405. 

Rebecca Young Headshot

Rebecca Ipiaqruk Young, MA (Kawerak Iñupiaq; Adopted into the Galyáx Kaagwaantaan [Eagle Beaver-Wolf] clan of Yakutat, Alaska)

PhD Student, University of Alaska Anchorage

Rebecca Ipiaqruk Young is Kawerak Iñupiaq (tribal member of Unalakleet) and second-generation Cuban-American who was adopted into the Galyáx Kaagwaantaan (Eagle Beaver Wolf) clan of Yakutat, Alaska. She lives and learns on the ancestral land of the Dena'ina People, currently known as Anchorage, Alaska. She earned her master's degree in counseling psychology from Alaska Pacific University and is currently a third-year doctoral student in the clinical-community psychology (with an Indigenous and rural emphasis) program at the University of Alaska Anchorage. With the help of her ancestors, Rebecca is a protector of cultural sovereignty through decolonization and believes decolonization can awaken healing traditions and restore balance for the interest of all beings, seen and unseen. Rebecca enjoys connecting with Elders, gardening from seed, picking berries, and preparing salmon for smoking and canning.  

Rebecca has been in serviceship for the Alaska Native (AN) Community Advancement into Psychology program for the past two years and was an Alaska Area Health Education Centers scholar. Rebecca is currently a research assistant on a Sustainable Development Working Group project for the Arctic Council, collaborating with Tribal communities in Southwest Alaska to understand perspectives on the local responses to regional, state, and federal COVID-19 related policies. She recently completed a study that explored the potential moderating effect of AN spirituality and cultural connectedness on the relationship between historical loss and well-being. The hierarchical linear regression analyses suggested that high cultural connectedness significantly moderated the relationship between thoughts about historical loss and psychological, occupational, and economic wellbeing. Rebecca hopes to join Elders and communities to further explore cultural connectedness in terms of behavioral interventions that have the potential to mitigate social consequences of historical loss and improve the quality of life for AN children, families, and tribes. As a clinician, Rebecca has been a licensed professional counselor for ten years and is also a certified brain injury specialist. She is currently pursuing further education and training in neurocognitive assessment and rehabilitative care related to acquired traumatic brain injury.

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