Stephanie G. Cowherd, San Carlos Apache

Stephanie G. Cowherd
M.A. Project Chair: 
Barbara Brinson Curiel
Graduation Year: 

I am Forests and Community Program Director at Ecotrust. I lead projects related to forestry and natural resource planning, education, and community outreach and engagement. My most recent work taps into my lived and professional experience in working alongside Tribes and Indigenous communities to apply Indigenous Knowledge System frameworks to forest and natural resource planning that centers the community’s values, needs, and goals.

I enjoy working with communities to bring vibrant storytelling about forests, foods, and fire to life through a variety of mediums including videos and experiential field tours. My work grounds itself in authentic relationships and accountability between organizations, Tribes, and other BIPOC communities and organizations. I dream of cultivating spaces for healing in community with all our relations. I am at heart a writer, and you can find my work published in places such as Toyon, Osiyo, Journal of Forestry, Tlaa: A Collective of Indigenous Expression. I am working on a small chapbook of poetry named Salt.

I utilize a variety of skills I learned through the MA program in my current role. In particular, the critical race and gender studies courses I took through the program have been extremely helpful the past two years. I’ve worked together alongside my work’s Equity Working Group to develop racial equity frameworks and lenses to evaluate projects, internal policies, and funding priorities. I also draw on the skills I learned as a student teacher to co-develop with university instructors an intergenerational mentorship program between Native undergraduate students and Native high school students. Together, we co-developed and delivered lesson plans and guided students and mentors through a series of forestry-related topics. On a day-to-day basis, I utilize my research skills to research requests for proposals that align with the values and goals of the communities we work with and our organization’s strategic plan. If an RFP seems in alignment and we believe we’d be competitive, as a Program Director I most often lead or co-lead writing and work collaboratively to write a competitive proposal with internal and external collaborators. Just like a writing assignment, the RFP has genres, audiences, context, languages, and prompts you need to take into consideration to be effective. Sometimes a literature review is involved as well, and I write these too. More recently, I have been using skills I acquired through conducting qualitative research, developing a methodology for collecting, analyzing, meaning making, and sharing out data and our findings. The last skill set I’ll share about is around storytelling. The skills I learned through creative writing courses enabled me to grow as a storyteller. I get to work with amazing digital, print, visual, and other creative artists to elevate authentic, engaging, and compelling stories of community partnerships and our work together. My last word of advice is that the program is what you make of it, push yourself, take care of yourself, build and hold yourself accountable to community, you got this!