Campus & Community

Native American Scholarship recipient has plans to help students interested in STEM fields

Autumn Murphy

“I knew for sure that not taking a chance to take my future to the next level would be a huge mistake if I let myself believe that I could not obtain it,” says Autumn Murphy. Photo: Wayne Armstrong

Autumn Murphy spent her childhood on Taos Pueblo Reservation in Taos, N.M., where opportunity is limited and higher education is often unheard of. Despite her circumstances, Murphy never stopped pursuing her dreams of going to college.

“I knew for sure that not taking a chance to take my future to the next level would be a huge mistake if I let myself believe that I could not obtain it,” says Murphy, a first-year student and one of the 2015 winners of DU’s Native American Community Scholarship. “As a Native American student facing adversity,” Murphy says, “I did my best to take advantage of programs that were interested in my goals and aspirations and helped me achieve them.”

The full, four-year scholarship is awarded to two students annually by a selection committee made up of eight faculty and staff volunteers from across campus. The committee receives 40–50 applications each year.

“Autumn Murphy stood out because of her resiliency and perseverance to overcome a multitude of challenges in her life and still maintain a positive attitude, seeking opportunities to grow and learn,” says Nashwa Bolling, associate director of budget, research and analysis in the Office of Admission, who handles admissions for the scholarship. “We knew she would be a great addition to our campus community, and we are excited to see all that she accomplishes over the next four years.”

Service and involvement in the Native American community are the guiding principles of the scholarship, and Murphy has big plans for how she is going to commit to helping.

“I want to give an opportunity to Native American students who have a strong interest in science and engineering,” says Murphy, who plans to start a program to help Native American students in middle school and high school develop a strong background in science and technology. “I lived in Mississippi for a while, and the high school I attended set up a job fair for different fields of work. I was drawn to the one where you could play with robots, and this sparked my interest in technology. I want other kids to experience something similar and be inspired.”

Murphy plans to organize a similar career event in Denver in the future, one that will reach out to students in the Native American community. “A lot of Native Americans don’t get past high school,” Murphy says. “They just get jobs on the reservation because they do not have the money or the education to do more. It would be nice to have more native students going to college.” In addition to reaching out to the Native American community, Murphy intends to have her program extend to any student in the Denver area who seeks education but lacks opportunity.

With such large goals, Murphy has a lot a work ahead of her. “It is still an idea,” she says of the job fair. “I plan to reach out to the Native Student Alliance at DU and start from there.”

Murphy’s ultimate goal is to give interested students the chance to work with a university to get one-on-one college preparation and become motivated to have careers in science and engineering. “By inspiring others like me to create their own path,” she says, “I will have fulfilled my dream of truly impacting an astounding community that will change the world.”


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