Rita Devine

Rita Devine

Feather

Power Words

(can "chocolate" count as one?!?) perseverance & determination

Where were you born? 

Washington, DC

What school did you attend? 

University of Delaware for BS, Georgetown University for PhD

What gained your interest in the NIH? 

I did a post doc fellowship here.

How can you help improve the composition of the STEM education pipeline for Native American students? 

By continuing to support them and encourage the Native students to continue in school, graduate college and attend graduate or medical school. We can expand our reach to more and more tribes to encourage them to send their students to us for our training programs, and we can support them culturally as well. And we must continue to address and break down the social, cultural and educational barriers that prevent Native students from succeeding.

What is your most important accomplishment to date?  

Being able to develop a program that supports Native students in all the ways necessary to ensure that they have opportunities to succeed in STEM careers.

How did you choose your career?  

I think my career chose me. So I have had to do a lot of life-learning on the way. However, the longer I'm in this position the more important "social justice" becomes.

What types of community programs do you feel need to be more visible in Indian Country?  

Educational opportunities need to be more readily available to students in high schools so that they are made aware of the possibilities of obtaining a higher education and overcoming the obstacles they face.

What are ways to provide better STEM education for Native American students?  

Provide resources to schools primarily serving NA students. Make sure students and the educators that advise them are made aware of the resources and opportunities available to them. Engage more folks in power/leadership roles, and also those in the trenches, so that they are intimately introduced to the problems, the goals and the solutions that NA students face. Educate the educators. Provide a program that excites the educators to become vested in the NA students they teach. And make sure the educators have the resources to implement new programs/ideas and sustain them.

How can Tribal colleges build stronger partnerships with institutions like NIH? 

I think the question is what must NIH do to engage the tribal colleges. Partnering grants like BUILD grants are a good start, but there needs to be a further commitment/pressure and money in intramural to collaborate. For instance, although in neuroscience we may not feel we have much we can do to collaborate discipline-wise with a TCU, we can, however, share techniques and equipment, train professors here at the NIH in Bethesda so that they can go back to their schools and be able to train their students using cutting edge technology. We could have students do a semester of schooling here in Bethesda, learning new techniques and taking FAES classes. We could send our science core facility chiefs out to the TCUs to train professors on use of new equipment and techniques. Imaging techniques, an area where the NIH excels would be one obvious choice. And if a TCU doesn’t currently have the higher dollar equipment, the professors and students could come to the NIH for a month or so to use our equipment.

What does success mean to you?  

Success is knowing that you cannot fix everything, but knowing that you have done all within your power to improve a situation.