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UND student Sol Eagle Road tapped into a network of mentors to secure one of the this year's Udall Undergraduate Scholarships

Posted on 6/6/2016


While forging a career path, there will be peaks and valleys. Even if you feel you can handle them alone, it's best to have a guide to help you along your way.

Entrepreneurship and Chinese major Sol Eagle Road found just that at the University of North Dakota, with a network of support that helped him become one of the most recent recipients of the Udall Undergraduate Scholarships for studies in tribal public policy and Native health care.

Eagle Road connected with several guides since transferring here from Haskell Indian Nations University in Lawrence, Kan., in 2014.

"I wasn't sure what I wanted to do," said Eagle Road. "I didn't know if I wanted to be a doctor, a lawyer, or a scientist; I was all over the place."

But Eagle Road tapped a UND contact from his teenage years soon after he arrived.

Old friends

Eagle Road had been at UND before. He was enrolled in UND's Indians Into Medicine Program (INMED) back in 2009, and while on campus, he had met Gene DeLorme, director of the INMED program.

"Sol was an articulate, intelligent and engaging individual," said DeLorme, when reflecting on his first impressions of Eagle Road. "He's academically gifted, driven, and there isn't anything he won't consider while he's preparing for a project."

DeLorme has always been the protector of the INMED program, said Eagle Road. He was always there, solving any issues the students had, and he remains committed to the students after they reach the next level.

"For the last two years, I've consulted Gene about what obligations I have for Indian Country and what kind of obligations I have for my own academic pursuits and trying to build my own identity in the world," said Eagle Road. "I don't think I'd be where I am academically without his influence."

Shortly after his arrival on campus, Eagle Road ended up making another connection that would prove vital. While seeking out scholarships, he met Joan Hawthorne, director of assessment and regional accreditation at UND.

Cry of joy

Hawthorne advised Eagle Road to enter the Udall Scholarship. Udall Scholars are selected in three different potential career fields: tribal public policy, tribal health care, and environment. Winners receive $7,000 awards for their junior or senior year of college and a mentoring experience. Eagle Road applied, but wasn't successful the first time.

"Joan gave me some feedback," said Eagle Road, "She told me the Udall committee said they wanted me to apply next year. They thought I would be a stronger candidate by then."

Undaunted by the first swing and miss, Eagle Road focused in on public policy for the scholarship, which lined up nicely with his entrepreneurship major.

"I think I learned the word entrepreneur in second grade," said Eagle Road. "I've always understood an entrepreneur to be a visionary, somebody creative, somebody who has a passion and follows that."

With his major and public policy focus locked, he needed to secure two recommenders for the scholarship. The two that recommended him were DeLorme and Min Wang. Wang, another mentor for Eagle Road at UND, convinced him to add Chinese as a second major.

This time around, Eagle Road knocked it out of the park. And he did what many greats do after winning the big one.

"I cried," said Eagle Road with a smile. "It was gratifying after two years of applying to finally see the payoff."

Rawhide entrepreneur

Eagle Road plans on studying abroad in China for the fall semester and finishing up at UND before graduating next spring. After graduation, he'll focus on public policy for the Northern Cheyenne people, likely in the Sheridan, Wyo., area.

He's also eager to put his entrepreneurship degree to use with rawhide, literally. As a child, Eagle Road grew up on cattle ranches until the age of nine, and his maternal grandparents were both leather smiths.

"Five years from now, I see myself running a leather company and being a cobbler," said Eagle Road. "I'm interested in implementing some Native American designs, bringing in some Cheyenne employees and providing some uplifting opportunity for Indian country."

In this niche market, the return on what you invest can easily be worth your while if you have the skills to create quality products. But just as important for Eagle Road is figuring out how to build a business that can benefit other community members down the road.

"At this point, I'm trying to find a good leathersmithing mentor that I can intern or apprentice under," said Eagle Road.

Eagle Road noted that plenty of other students in his classes are qualified and capable of scoring scholarships, but they need to have the initiative to go after them. They need to be open to doing a little research, applying, and then, down the road, great opportunities might emerge.

"Without people like Gene, Joan and Min, I don't think I would have applied for any competitive scholarships," said Eagle.

Brian Johnson, University & Public Affairs writer

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