Spotlight on Engaged Student Scholarship

MSU Student Named a 2008 National Udall Scholar

Autumn Mitchell
Sophomore in Linguistics
College of Arts and Letters and Honors College

photo of Autumn Mitchell

Autumn Mitchell, a sophomore at Michigan State University, will use her 2008 Udall Scholarship to encourage the revitalization of tribal language programs. Mitchell is from Blanchard, Michigan.

Each year the Morris K. Udall Foundation awards a number of scholarships to Native American and Alaskan Native students committed to tribal public policy or health care issues.

"To me, receiving this scholarship means that somebody outside the tribal community is recognizing the importance of saving indigenous languages," said Mitchell, a member of the Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe. "This is a longstanding issue in indigenous communities, but it doesn't often reach the mainstream. I hope the Udall Scholarship will enhance my ability to help my tribe retain our language."

In high school, Mitchell volunteered at her local elementary school, helping with curriculum development for the Ojibwe language teachers.

"Autumn Mitchell has a clear and focused desire to revitalize indigenous languages by working in concert with her own and other tribal communities," said Cynthia Jackson-Elmoore, dean of the MSU Honors College. "She understands the importance of giving back to her community and has a commitment to making sure that her efforts toward language revitalization are sustainable."

As part of her mastery of linguistics and policy skills, Mitchell is studying the Ojibwe language, French, and political science at MSU. "I came to MSU because the university offers Ojibwe language classes," Mitchell said.

The Ojibwe (or Ojibwa) language, known to its own speakers as Anishinabe or Anishinaabemowin, is an Algonquian tongue spoken by people in the northern United States and Canada.

Mitchell plans to pursue an advanced degree at a Canadian university, partly because of the large population of Ojibwe in Canada. "I greatly desire to see indigenous languages learned as a first language once more," Mitchell said. "By working to assist with language efforts and overseeing language political initiatives, I anticipate increasing the number and quality of those programs within tribal communities."

  • Adapted with permission from a story by Kristin K. Anderson of MSU University Relations

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