Winds of Change - Spring 2017 - 18
rowing up near the ocean mostly in
Vallejo, Calif., Amber Finley was
fascinated by aquatic life. That love for the
sea quickly transformed into a passion for
STEM. As early as junior high, math and
science became Finley's focus at school -
and her curiosity about biology was strongly
encouraged by the adults around her.
"I had many teachers who supported my
interest in math and science," she says. "And
my parents always wanted me to do well
and supported my academic endeavors."
When Finley moved to Mandaree, N.D., at
16 years old, she continued to seek out STEM
18 WINDS OF CHANGE * SPRING 2017
opportunities. There, she joined AISES and
met an influential teacher who took her
science studies to a new level, helping her
explore chemistry and physics.
But despite strong support at home and
school, Finley faced many obstacles on the
road to a bachelor's degree. "At first, I chose
to attend my tribal community college
because it was close to home, and I had
recently had my daughter," she explains. She
enrolled at Fort Berthold Community
College in New Town, N.D.
After earning associate's degrees in science
and liberal arts, Finley knew she wanted more.
But to complete her bachelor's, she would have
to leave her family support system behind.
Committed to furthering her education,
Finley attended the University of North
Dakota to study fisheries and wildlife biology.
The big move was fun at first, but when it
soon gave way to homesickness, the American
Indian Student Services Center became her
home away from home. "If I ran into issues
with registration, paying my bills on time,
parking, and finding a sitter or even finding a
warm meal, the team at American Indian
Student Services helped me," Finley remembers. "It was like having an extended family."
MANDAN, HIDATSA, ARIKARA
NATION, SPIRIT LAKE DAKOTA,
AND STANDING ROCK LAKOTA /
NUETA HIDATSA SAHNISH
COLLEGE / SCIENCE FACULTY
AND DIRECTOR OF RESEARCH