OU student Ashley McCray will speak at the White House as an honored member of the “Champions of Change” Sept. 15.
According to a White House press release, “Champions of Change” are women who empower their communities. The goal for the event is to inspire girls to be leaders in their communities in a unique way, according to the release.
McCray is a Ph.D student in the History of Science, Technology and Medicine program. She focuses on indigenous knowledge, environment and public health in minority communities, race, and science and the native experience in the university. A member of the Absentee Shawnee Tribe of Oklahoma, she will be speaking on the injustice Native American students face at OU.
“I feel really humbled and surprised, but also really excited to have such an awesome platform to speak out about native issues on campus and the issues that affect native students as they try to make their way through academia,” she said.
Some questions she will be asked include how the women inspire leaders, what challenges they face and how their work connects with others, as well as how the women handle pushback, she said. She also said is eager to vocalize the issues she has witnessed and experienced at OU on a national level.
“Since 2012, native enrollment has decreased dramatically, and I think this an indication of the way native students are treated on campus," she said. "There are very little resources available to native students, and there is very little understanding of native identity and native culture."
McCray also said that she thinks OU President David Boren wasn’t inclusive of Native Americans with his new diversity movement, and she wants to eradicate the name Sooner from OU’s identity because it offends Native Americans.
“Sooner reminds (native) students that we’re not really welcome or invited here, and it reminds us a lot about colonialism, cultural genocide and regular genocide and being displaced from our home,” McCray said.
After speaking, McCray said she hopes to inspire Boren to think more about Native American students and to revitalize the support for native students on campus.