Chels Fabian

As the University of Missouri celebrates Native American Heritage Month, two Indigenous alumni will return to Mizzou as panelists sharing their unique experiences from college to career.

Ryder Jiron, B.A. ‘20, and Owen Cruz, B.A. ‘22 both say that Indigenous instructors and organizations like Four Directions, Mizzou’s student organization for Indigenous students and allies, helped them connect with their peers and discover a passion for enhancing Indigenous representation at Mizzou and beyond.

Cruz, a member of the Absentee Shawnee Tribe of Oklahoma, earned a degree in Romance languages, literatures and linguistics at Mizzou. Today, he is the diversity and inclusion program coordinator at Maryville University of St. Louis. 

“For current Indigenous MU students,” Cruz says, “having cultural representation is crucial for the larger campus community as well as the Indigenous community. Right now, I continue to work towards helping create multicultural spaces for marginalized communities.”

Jiron (Isleta Pueblo) earned a degree in communication studies and a minor in Native American and Indigenous Studies. Jiron is now a communications and policy coordinator with the Coalition to Stop Violence Against Native Women. 

“My current role shows how adaptable a communications degree, and any A&S degree, can be,” says Jiron. While at Mizzou, Jiron says he was able to learn more about advocacy work through his involvement with Four Front Council, a group dedicated to voicing concerns of underrepresented students in an effort toward unification and diversification.

Cruz and Jiron will be joined by Cherokee Nation citizen Jaquetta Shade-Johnson, assistant professor of English and digital storytelling at Mizzou. The panel will take place 4:30 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 7, in the MU Career Center, located on the lower level of the Student Success Center.