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Alliance ambassador: Emily Day using Auburn education to build community across cultures

Emily Day wearing regalia

Everywhere she goes, Auburn University junior Emily Day tries to find a community of people who support each other. When a community isn't in place, she works to create one.

As a member of the College of Liberal Arts Inclusive Excellence Cabinet, Day works with students, faculty and staff to create and maintain welcoming spaces and opportunities for everyone at Auburn.

Day, who is a member of the Nottawaseppi Huron Band of the Potawatomi tribe in Michigan, said the Cabinet's work aligns with her nonprofit and philanthropy studies efforts to help people and her current events studies in the journalism minor.

"I felt really honored to be asked to join as the Native American representative," Day said. "It gave me a good foundation to be able to start a new organization, and it gave me a great network. It's just given me more connection with the College of Liberal Arts, because my major is in the College of Human Sciences, but we have very similar dynamics. All of us care about people and so it's going to be a good opportunity to keep moving that forward."

Through that network, Day founded The Native American & Indigenous Alliance, a student organization focused on sharing Native American culture at Auburn.

Day invited Director of Inclusive Excellence Joan Harrell and Global Studies Lecturer Sara González to be advisors for The Alliance. Harrell helped Day combine the study of current events and advocacy through journalism, and González brings expertise on different cultures to the organization.

Still in the early stages, Day hopes The Alliance will contribute to awareness and understanding of Native American culture for all students.

"I created it with the idea of spreading Native American awareness through Auburn because we are a land-grant institution," Day said. "You don’t have to be native or indigenous to join. I don't know everything either, so I'm really excited for all of us to learn together, start spreading awareness and hopefully start doing outreach."

Day has always had a heart for helping people and celebrating culture. After visiting the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota, she began thinking about how she could help reservations thrive. While many reservations are self-sufficient, some face obstacles like job insecurity, housing crises, alcoholism and more.

By combining her education in philanthropy and nonprofit studies, the writing skills of her journalism minor and experience creating The Native American & Indigenous Alliance, Day hopes to one day start her own nonprofit. The organization will be named "Niben" – Day's Native American name, which means "summer" and "a time that people come together."

Niben's mission will be to educate children on reservations and connect them with the resources they need to break generational cycles.

"The younger kids are the generations that can break cycles," Day said. "If we teach them from an early age, or give them resources and education, maybe they can break those cycles. Tying back to their culture and respect, bringing people together, hopefully can set off a domino effect within their own reservations."

In Auburn, Day co-directs Vecinos, an outreach ministry that serves Hispanic communities. Following graduation, she hopes to enroll in graduate school in the western U.S. to work with tribal governments on improving living conditions on reservations.

Day said because of her faith and upbringing, she will never stop working to ensure everyone has a safe and supportive community.

"God has given me that burden for people," Day said. "I couldn't do it if I didn't have God on my side and my parents. They raised me in a way that when we're blessed, we can bless other people. I always have that in my heart. I love people, and so my heart just breaks for people that I see that maybe don't have the same privileges as me or don't have the same opportunities."

For more information and to join The Native American & Indigenous Alliance, contact advisors Joan Harrell and Sara González.

Tags: Students Communication and Journalism Community and Outreach Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

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