Canku Ota Logo
Canku Ota
Canku Ota Logo
(Many Paths)
An Online Newsletter Celebrating Native America
pictograph divider
Native Woman Inspired by Novel Finds Home in Michigan
by Nancy Stidham

April Yazzie is at home in an unexpected place. She is a Gates Millennium Scholar at the University of Michigan. The Native woman found the diverse population of Ann Arbor enabled her to blend into the community. Most people think she is Asian and are surprised to learn she is Diné. At the University of Michigan Yazzie is the only Native American and the only woman studying aerospace engineering, a field populated mostly by male students.

Yazzie was inspired to become an aerospace engineer by the reading of a novel for pleasure. When she was a freshman at Many Farms High School in Arizona, her older brother, Lance, recommended that she read Michael Crichton's Airframe. Yazzie was captivated by one of the characters, a female aerospace engineer, and decided to pursue that career.

Yazzie also cites her mother as inspiration. When the rigorous curriculum at Michigan threatened to overwhelm her, it was her mother's phone calls that encouraged her and kept her on track.

Yazzie did not like high school English. She chose the University of Michigan because engineering students there only need to take technical writing. It was a way to avoid English. However, Yazzie found that she enjoyed an advantage in her university calculus
class because her academic preparation included AP English taught by Judy Peterson at Blue Ridge High School. Her calculus class demanded writing and she noticed that it was much easier for her than for students who had not had AP classes.

Before leaving for Michigan, Yazzie returned to Blue Ridge to thank her high school mentor Judy Peterson. Although she did not appreciate it at the time, in hindsight she realizes that Peterson's AP English classes had prepared her well for the demands of university study.

Speaking of Peterson, Yazzie said, "She taught me how to learn."

And learn Yazzie did. She applied for a Gates Millennium Scholarship and was awarded the grant that will pay for her expenses all the way to a PhD. During the summer, Yazzie attended M-STEM, the Michigan Science Technology Engineering Math Academy. Yazzie was one of 50 freshmen at the 6-week college prep program.

Then in September, Yazzie attended a career fair where she met a recruiter who was the director of the NASA Academy at Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. She was awarded an internship for summer 2010 and worked on attitude control systems on the Global Precipitation Measurement Mission. Attitude control regulates the orientation of the craft. The mission is scheduled to launch a satellite in 2013.

Her work at Goddard opened the door to visit Kirtland Air Force Base in Albuquerque, New Mexico. There she was given access to career options and research laboratories. Yazzie hopes to return to Goddard again next year as an intern.

Yazzie's undergraduate research projects at the University of Michigan include the development of robot ground vehicles for use in high-risk military operations and liaison for the Mars Rover Team.

Yazzie is the president of the American Indian Science and Engineering Society (AISES) chapter at the University of Michigan. She also actively mentors high school students at Many Farms High School on the Navajo reservation during school vacations to encourage them to go to college and become engineers. Yazzie will be a Co-op (a student employee) at NASA Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas from January through April 2011.

Yazzie graduated from Blue Ridge High School in 2009 and is the daughter of Martin and Janett Hardy of Show Low, AZ.

pictograph divider
Home PageFront PageArchivesOur AwardsAbout Us
Kid's PageColoring BookCool LinksGuest BookEmail Us
pictograph divider
  Canku Ota is a free Newsletter celebrating Native America, its traditions and accomplishments . We do not provide subscriber or visitor names to anyone. Some articles presented in Canku Ota may contain copyright material. We have received appropriate permissions for republishing any articles. Material appearing here is distributed without profit or monetary gain to those who have expressed an interest. This is in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107.  
Canku Ota is a copyright © 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011 of Vicki Barry and Paul Barry.
Canku Ota Logo   Canku Ota Logo
The "Canku Ota - A Newsletter Celebrating Native America" web site and its design is the
Copyright © 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011 of Paul C. Barry.
All Rights Reserved.

Site Meter
Thank You

Valid HTML 4.01!