IAIA - Institute of American Indian Arts

Student Success Stories

Here are some 2014 profiles of students benefiting from your generous support:

TchaCosgroveT’cha Mi’iko Cosgrove

When he first started talking to students on campus, retired veteran T’cha Mi’iko Cosgrove (Shoshone-Bannock) said it was a little uncomfortable. Not only was he a college student again but this time at 65. He was also living in the dorms among mostly  20-somethings. But T’cha, who retired as a vocational rehabilitation counselor with the Shoshone-Bannock Tribe two years ago, looked for something in common with the students to begin that bond.

“It was uncomfortable coming in with total strangers at first. I was hoping that there was at least one Shoshone,” he said. “But I figured the only way to get to know people was to get out there. At first, I think they were a little uncomfortable, too, with this old guy coming up and saying, ‘Hey, what are you doing?’ But I carried a camera – I felt that was a good tool.”

T’cha, who was also a longtime staff photographer and writer for his tribal paper, The Sho-Ban News, used his camera to break the ice.  In this digital world where social media has become integrated in daily life, T’cha’s photo passion proved to be not only to good way to connect to younger colleagues by taking their photos to post on the Internet, but it helped him connect to the students on a personal level.

“I’ve had some students come talk to me – some are very lonely,” he said. “For some, this is their first time away from home. They talk about their frustrations and struggles – personal or financial. Some of them see me as a grandfather figure.”

T’cha also invites students who walk into the cafeteria alone or are eating alone to sit at his table to help them feel included and more comfortable.

While he’s tried to help other students adjust, he admits he’s had his own struggles. He’s a Studio Arts major who is interested in graphic design and he’s slightly color blind in one eye.  He’s had some trouble with a color theory course.  He’s also not familiar with some of the software applications needed for classes, such as PowerPoint and Excel. 

T’cha, who received a scholarship from the American Indian College Fund, said he’ll continue to work with tutors and practice his new skills because he feels IAIA is a good choice. Although he’s tried college before, he knows that he’ll get the degree this time because of the support of his new friends and tutors, and his overall determination.

“This feels good,” he said looking around the room with a smile. “It really does.”





ColleenLuceroColleen Lucero

It was a trip to the National Museum of the American Indian in New York with a family friend and mentor that solidified her interest in Museum Studies. But it was more than a decade before she decided to pursue it.

Colleen Lucero (Hopi), 31, was all set to come to IAIA after graduating from Tuba City High School in Arizona, but when she found out she was going to be a mother she had to make other plans. She later enrolled in Remington College to become a pharmacy technician to support her and her son.

Yet, the yearning to acquire knowledge about Native American history and culture continued to grow. She was an artist who learned how to make prints and her own paint from rocks and natural dyes at the former Hopi artist Charles Loloma’s studio turned into the Hopitutuqaiki Art School. She also volunteered with various art organizations, including the Heard Museum, the Southwestern Association for Indians Arts and the Museum of Northern Arizona, to help with events or work within collections.

“I would see stuff in museums and think that wasn’t right—there is a lack of true information about our people and there is more than those kachina dolls and pottery,” Colleen said, adding that she would spend all day in museums, especially at the Museum of Northern Arizona, viewing exhibitions and reading books.

While volunteering, she learned about a research assistant internship at the Peabody Essex Museum in Massachusetts. Although she didn’t have a degree or was presently studying in the field, she applied for it anyway and met IAIA Museum Studies Chairwoman Jessie Ryker-Crawford, who was part of the internship committee. Jessie told her whether she received the internship or not, she should apply to IAIA.

When she was accepted into IAIA, Colleen quit her job after spending seven years in health care to become a student again. She currently has a 3.89 GPA and has been on the Dean’s List since she’s been here. Because some of her previous college credits transferred, she’s graduating in three years instead of four. She’s also received numerous scholarships, including the Sovereign Nations Endowed, the Full Circle, the Dean’s Merit Award and help from the Hopi Tribe, funding that has allowed her to support herself and her son.

After graduation in spring 2014, Colleen hopes to help the Hopi tribe with curating a collection of Southwest artwork donated by a Santa Fe collector, who has become a mentor and friend. She also wants to continue research and exhibit her grandmother’s experience as a Harvey girl, a group of attractive waitresses hired by the Fred Harvey Company in the early 1900s who were known for hospitality and high-quality service to tourists coming to the “wild” Southwest. While Mr. Harvey’s policy was to employ young white women, Colleen has discovered the Harvey Houses hired a few Native Americans, though most of them worked as cooks, maids or did other jobs. The research has become her senior thesis. Her first exhibition, the Hopi Harvey Project, after graduation will be at Hopi.

For others who are thinking about making a life-changing decision, she says anything is worth trying when it’s something positive. She says it’s also good to have help.

“I didn’t do it alone. I had a lot of support,” Colleen said, adding that mentors, instructors, family, friends and her 10-year-old son were the biggest assets, including her cultural background.

“I rely on my traditions a lot,” Colleen said. “I hold it close to my heart—who I am and where I come from. It gives me the strength to become a better person.”