- President of Haskell Indian Nations University
- Domestic violence research focusing on indigenous peoples has greatly impacted how those groups help victims
Our next recipient can be described as a transformational advocate for underserved students. Dr. Venida Chenault, President, Haskell Indian Nations University, has tireless worked to expand education options for tribal students, who are among the least represented on college campuses. She is one of very few women nationally to serve in this role.
Haskell’s success in providing high-quality, broad-based education to tribal peoples from every tribe in the United States has expanded and increased under Dr. Chenault’s leadership due, in part, to her ability to build partnerships at the local, state, and federal levels. Under her tenure, student retention has increased and she has inspired and served as a role model to many young women who have passed through Haskell’s doors.
Dr. Chenault, who received her B.S.W., M.S.W., and PhD. in social work from KU, began her social work career working for the state with low income persons and those impacted by addiction. This work informed her future career path as an educator, scholar and administrator. Her tenure at Haskell began in 1991 as a Social Work faculty and advisor. In 1997, she assumed the role of Interim Director of American Indian Studies. Shortly thereafter, she was asked to take on the role of Acting Associate Dean. She continued to rise up the ranks, being asked to take on additional challenges with greater levels of responsibility, leading to her appointment as Vice President of Academic Affairs in 2004. She held a position as Visiting Scholar at KU and also worked for the Bureau of Indian Affairs in Washington D.C. providing leadership on key priority projects for the Director. In 2014, Dr. Chenault assumed her current role as President.
Dr. Chenault has had to make some very difficult financial decisions during her tenure demonstrating her skill and wisdom. She has kept her sights on students’ and the institution’s long-term needs in the process. Additionally, her focus on building trust and improving relationships with federal partners ensures that Haskell will be sustainable for decades to come.
As a scholar, both the fields of addiction and domestic violence have been primary interests. She has a national reputation in the culturally competent practice of social work in these fields, particularly with indigenous populations. Dr. Chenault is a proud member of the Prairie Band Potowami tribe, a lifelong Kansan, and an inspiration to countless women who have met her as students at Haskell.
One of her nominators explains Dr. Chenault’s influence in this way. “Perhaps no one in my memory has done more to inspire more women (particularly women of color) to pursue their educations, and to effectively advocate for women of color than Venida.... Venida has been the difference between success or setback for so many. Women who have grown up in tribal communities, whose educations have been limited, who have come out of families where higher education was never viewed as a really viable option have looked to Venida as a mentor and an example of what might be possible for them.”