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Part of Western Governors University

October 31, 2022

Student Success

Employee Spotlight for Native American Heritage Month: Brenda Julander

Every November, Native American Heritage Month, also known as American Indian and Alaska Native Heritage Month, celebrates the culture, traditions, and contributions of Native people. Brenda Julander, the Executive Assistant to the Chief Academic Officer and Provost at WGU, is one of the 5.2 million American Indians and Alaska Natives in the United States. 

Brenda came to WGU in 2019 at a pivotal point in her life. She says, "When I moved to Utah from Colorado, I was at a crossroads in my career. I had spent a decade in marketing for a building products manufacturer, and I was ready to move into a new industry, preferably one with a purpose beyond achieving sales numbers. WGU caught my attention straightaway. The online model and focus on expanding access for under-resourced populations were of particular interest to me, and I absolutely wanted to be part of the story. From day one, I knew I had found my home."

The journey of finding a home and community is one that Brenda knows all too well.

Her lineage is Northwestern Band Shoshone and Flandreau Santee Dakota, but she was adopted out of her native community as an infant and not exposed to her heritage until adulthood. Once joining the Indigenous@WGU employee resource group (ERG), she discovered a wealth of support. She reflects, "I found a community of individuals with a breadth of cultural experience (some similar to my own) and a desire to build a vibrant community showing that Native people are not relics of the past. Our ERG started two years ago this month, and we are proud of what we have been able to accomplish in that time, expanding knowledge of Indigenous history and culture, and bringing respectful and relevant tribal land acknowledgments to our commencement ceremonies. We are a small but lively group (of 63), and we are looking forward to great things in the coming years, including possible outreach to Native communities and tribal education resources." Brenda was recently elected and took over the duties of Chair of the Indigenous@WGU ERG.

The thread of education and support also runs throughout Brenda's work as an executive assistant. When asked what she loves about her job, she responds, "In my role, I am exposed to many practices within the university as well as the broader higher education world. My job is incredibly fulfilling and never boring. I have the privilege of touching many aspects of the university, and I love my behind-the-scenes role in supporting real progress in the transformation of higher education.” And as WGU strives to be an institution that consistently grows and evolves, Brenda shares how exciting it is to work for an organization that values Social Emotional Learning (SEL) and Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DE&I): “It’s wonderful to see these initiatives are not performative; rather, we are focusing on actionable goals and sincere efforts to move the needle towards understanding, advocacy, and true equity."

Brenda’s story is an example of how finding a community and workplace that feels like home can be transformative. "I believe in what we do and why we do it, and there is nothing more satisfying than knowing in your heart that what you do makes a difference in the lives of others.”

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