Salish Kootenai College President and University of Montana Alum Sandra Boham
By: Katya Sumwalt, SDSC Science Writing Intern and UC San Diego Student
At the recently held first Minority Serving - Cyberinfrastructure Consortium (MS-CC) Annual Meeting in Atlanta, Dr. Sandra L. Boham, an enrolled member of the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes of the Flathead Indian Reservation of Montana and President of Salish Kootenai College, commanded the room with the simple statement:
“We have not been at the table, but on the menu.”
This became the mantra of the MS-CC conference, repeated by subsequent speakers and capturing the urgent and overdue need to include underrepresented groups in every context as equal partners. Any partner would be lucky to have access to Dr. Boham’s knowledge and expertise, whose wisdom stands out in a room of leaders and educators.
“I strive to give guidance to students with uncertainty in their education,” Dr. Boham said. “We have established a four year nursing program at Salish Kootenai College - the first ever four-year nursing program at a tribal college and soon hope to add Masters degree level programs.”
She is now working to create sustainable housing and funding to provide stability for these students. Beyond this still, Dr. Boham is hoping to create the mentioned Masters program at Salish Kootenai College.
Her success is rooted in being part of the community that she serves.
Dr. Boham began her educational journey faced with lots of uncertainty in a community where it was rare for those at her high school to complete a four-year degree, let alone graduate school.
Her mother grew up on the Flathead Indian reservation of Montana and did not have an opportunity to obtain a degree in higher education during her youth. Meanwhile, Dr. Boham’s father's career was focused on the military and his work in coal mines. However, both her mother and father heavily encouraged her to attend college.
After high school, Dr. Boham took some college classes alongside her mother at the University of Montana, with dreams of a career in social justice. Throughout the course of this exposure to higher education, Dr. Boham’s aspirations shifted and changed. Yet, both she and her mother had a shared goal of creating a positive impact on the social and educational lives of others.
While at the University of Montana, Dr. Boham had a chance to teach adult education classes at Salish Kootenai College - she loved it. This experience began the impetus to the creation of the community at Salish Kootenai College that she impacts today - as the school’s president.
From teaching adult classes at Salish Kootenai, to teaching at Humboldt State University, a short stint as a K-12 teacher, and eventually becoming the director of the Montana Department of Corrections, Dr. Boham amassed exposure to the educational experiences of thousands of individuals before becoming the President of Salish Kootenai College.
“Make space for perspectives that aren’t ours and when you see a community known for
deficits, see that maybe that’s not real,” Dr. Boham said at a recent conference aimed at minority-serving institutions. “This shift in paradigm can help us influence and better the lives of under and misrepresented peoples. By overlooking them we are potentially losing our best lawyers, doctors, educators, scientists, and engineers.”
Dr. Boham received her Ed.D. in educational leadership from the University of Montana.