Naomi Farabee2017 Rising Alumni

Naomi Farabee

Naomi Farabee earned a bachelor’s in engineering, but it was during her master’s degree in educational policy and administration that she found her calling to connect her Indigenous identity to her research and career. Throughout her time at the University of Minnesota, Naomi was involved in American Indian student organizations, and helped create the American Indian Faculty and Staff Association on campus. Today, Naomi is the Assistant Director of the McNair Scholars Program at Augsburg College, and is inspired when students overcome and remove barriers for themselves.


Assistant Director of the McNair Scholars Program, Augsburg College

CEHD Degree

M.A., Educational Policy & Administration, 2009

Please list any professional accomplishments you wish to mention.

Co-founder, American Indian Faculty and Staff Association, University of Minnesota

Please list any past or current volunteer activities.

Co-Vice President, North Star AISES (American Indian Science and Engineering Society) Alliance and Professional Chapter

Chair, Board of Directors, ‘Nawayee’ Center School, Minneapolis, MN

Former Advisor, American Indian Student Cultural Center

Please list any awards or honors from your collegiate, professional, or volunteer experiences.

I am proud to have been a Kirby Puckett Scholar and a Jackie Robinson Scholar/Alumna as an undergrad.

What is your favorite memory from the University of Minnesota?

As I was transitioning to my new role at Augsburg College, I was invited to my last event as the Advisor for the American Indian Student Cultural Center, which was the Sherman Alexie lecture hosted at Northrop. Spending time with Sherman over dinner, walking with him on campus while sharing fun stories of the Native students at the U of M, along with being in the audience for his amazing talk at Northrop will be something I take with me as a great end to my time at the U. Sherman Alexie and the students Indigenized this iconic campus space and it was magical.

What professor(s) or course(s) were most influential during your time in CEHD?

My advisor, Dr. Robert Poch, was influential to my growth as a student/scholar from the beginning. As an advisor, I appreciate the support he gave to me both in the development of my research, but also as a faculty member who never dissuaded me from creating a project outside of the research boundaries of what was being studied and taught in the department at the time. As a Native scholar who wanted to bridge education, policy and the intersections of these areas with Indigenous experiences, I am grateful for Dr. Poch and others who supported this inquiry, rather than dismissing it as being outside the bounds of the EdPA department. I took several courses with Dr. Poch as well and I can honestly say that he is one of the best educators on campus. His attention to student learning and student experience was transformative for me. From his courses I learned both course content, and also how to engage students in multiple ways and modalities, something I take with me and try to incorporate today in my work.

Dr. C. Cryss Brunner taught a women in educational leadership course that had the most innovative and interesting learning/participation format that I have experienced in my formal education. Using a combination of identity exploration around gender, power and communication, I learned a lot from her about navigating my cultural identity, gender, and leadership style(s).

Who has inspired you the most during your career?

My family and community first and foremost is the greatest influence and inspiration for my career.

There are so many women of color and Indigenous women at the University of Minnesota who have been instrumental to my development and career path. They support, challenge, and inspire me daily, and they don't get the recognition or respect that their amazing work and ideas deserve.

I have also had the blessing of great mentors and champions early in my education and professional career. One that comes to mind first is the late Dr. Frank Snowden, a scientist and faculty in General College and the College of Science and Engineering, he was one of my earliest champions. He mentored me during my time as an undergraduate and first hired me into a position in the College of Science Engineering (Institute of Technology). He showed me the difference between being an ally for someone and being a champion, and the impact that championing others can make. He also taught me to identify the unique values in the culture that I come from, and how I could apply those to higher ed, a place that often overlooks ways in which Indigenous people can and do contribute.

What was the impact and benefit of your educational experience in CEHD?

My time in CEHD was instrumental in helping me to transition into the career I have now. As someone who graduated from a competitive engineering program, but who figured out too close to graduation that engineering was not my passion, I needed a place to reflect, learn, and grow in my interest in higher education. Along with developing and exploring my interest and positionality in higher education, I was able to gain the knowledge and theoretical background necessary to work in this field.

What skills are important to succeed as an emerging professional today?

Professionals today need to be able to work in different cultural contexts, with all the information and resources available to us, I don't think it should be acceptable to not demonstrate intercultural competence in our daily work, ignorance or lack of exposure should no longer be used as an excuse.

When you have 30 minutes of free time, what do you do?

Either cook something or plan a meal, I love to cook and come from a family of great cooks, so food is important to me. I also love to go to the Mississippi at one of the parks along the river locally, I grew up about a block from the Mississippi in Bemidji, so it has been a constant, renewing, presence in my life.

How do others describe you?

Smart, observant, responsible, probably too hard on myself.

How do you describe yourself?

Loyal, smart, occasionally very witty. A Ravenclaw, if you will.

What's a good book you'd recommend to others?

The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz, it will change how you see the world. For a fun, addictive read, A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness.

If you could have coffee with anyone from history, who would it be?

Frida Kahlo, her art, her style, her intelligence and life are so amazing, I would love to spend time with her.

What gets you excited about work?

Though I work in higher ed, I still get great satisfaction from problem solving and fixing problems, big and small, and putting those skills I learned as an engineer to good use. Also, seeing students overcome and remove barriers for themselves and others is incredibly inspiring.

When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?

I thought I would be a lawyer, I am not sure when I changed my mind, but it is probably for the best, as writing (more so the finishing of writing projects) is torturous for me

Outside of your job, how do you grow professionally?

Currently I am exploring ways that I might start and grow a business, to be able to build wealth for my family and community.

What is a "fun fact" about you?

I am a not-so-secret Francophile. I have visited France 5 times, my Mom and I have traveled there together 4 of those visits. We are planning to return to Europe next spring and visit southern France and Barcelona.